Whiplash Of The Neck

The head, with a weight of up to 14 lbs., rests on the neck that is comprised of 7   cervical  vertebrae that are attached to each other by 32 joints, and held together by muscles, ligaments and tendons. Now picture the head as a heavy ball, resting on a freely moving spindle (the neck), that is attached to the body, and what happens when a sharp sudden force is applied to the back of that body. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the head would snap backward and through the law of physics, would snap forward at an even greater speed. The sudden powerful force of one automobile striking another automobile in the rear end reproduces the “Whiplash” effect, whereby the body remains motionless, the head is thrown backward (hyperextension) and snapped sharply forward (hyperflexion). The head is being thrust forward at a greater speed than the backward thrust, hence the term “Whiplash”.

Before discussing the affects of “Whiplash” and how it can affect the individual that is exposed to it, we should also know that “Whiplash” could be caused by other means than the classic automobile rear end accident. For example, a sudden sharp blow or push to a persons back can cause a “Whiplash” injury. Strenuous body contact sports, such as football, hockey, wrestling and soccer to name a few can cause this type of injury. A sudden fall forward or backward where the individual tries to counteract the fall, may also be a causative factor. Because of these unthought of factors, the individual could sustain an actual “Whiplash” injury and be unaware that the resultant symptoms may actually be due to the sustained injury.

The injury that occurs after such an injury can be mild to moderate or indeed very severe, causing symptoms that can also be varied, such as mild to severe. Injuries can be as severe as a  fracture  to a  cervical  vertebra or a joint. The muscles, ligaments and tendons are extremely vulnerable. They can be pulled or stretched beyond their normal range of motion ROM). The possibility of tears to muscle fibers, and ligaments being torn from their attachment to bone, can cause moderate to severe sprains/strains. When a bone is fractured it will heal with bone, but muscles, when healing, will form scar tissue that can be a cause of pain in the future. Injury to the bones and joints almost always results in the formation of osteoarthritis. The disturbance of these structures resulting in the “Whiplash” syndrome at the time of the trauma, can be immediate or take hours, days, weeks, or even months before symptoms will appear.

The following are the most prevalent symptoms that may be due to the trauma of “Whiplash”. 1. Stiff neck with pain moderate to severe with loss of movement. 2. Muscle spasms that may be moderate to severe that can be constant or intermittent. 3. Headaches that can be mild to severe, and are constant to intermittent. 4. Blurring or double vision. 5. Dizziness (vertigo) and possible loss of balance. 6. Ringing in the ears. 7. Nausea that can occur on and off. 8. Pinching of the nerves that can cause numbness and/or tingling into one or both upper extremities, or in part of the extremity. 9. Blood vessels being pinched can impair the circulation into one or both upper extremities. The result can be a coldness of the hand or both hands. 10. The individual may experience being drowsy and lethargic, resulting in a feeling of fatigue. 11. A very severe “Whiplash” can cause the person to blackout at the time of the injury. 12. The “Whiplash” can also have an effect on the lower back and extremities, similar to the above symptoms, but not as often.

When exposed to any trauma, it is best not to wait for the symptoms to appear. When symptoms start to appear they will start to impact your ability to work, play sports, sleep or having the ability to go about daily living comfortably. When any of the above symptoms do appear, do wait for them to get worse. Seeing your Chiropractor at this time may prevent a great deal of future suffering. He or She can determine the extent of your injuries through x-rays and examination, and will then be able to treat the condition and also make specific recommendations to be followed at home.

Helping yourself will be a significant factor in your recovery without any of the prolonged side affects, such as arthritis, muscle weakness or atrophy, or constant stiffness of the neck. The best way to help your self is to use the following regimen. Immediately after the trauma, use ice for the first 72 hours, 15 to 20 minutes at a time with one-hour rest between applications. After the 72-hour period has passed you can start using applications of heat for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. The use of an analgesic gel can be extremely helpful in alleviating pain. Relaxation of the muscles is a must. This is accomplished with rest and immobilization of the area. The use of a support is the most effective way to accomplish this,and this support would be a  cervical  collar The collar should be worn when in pain and during periods of activity and at work. It should not be worn 24 hours a day, if at all possible. We do not want the muscles to become dependent on this support. It is worn only to help the muscles to relax during periods of stress. When symptoms subside and head and neck movement (ROM) becomes normal, the  cervical  collar should not be worn. Put it away and use it only when necessary, should there be a return of symptoms. At this time gentle stretching exercises should be started to help improve range of motion (ROM).

Pay attention to your body’s signals. Do not take this condition lightly, even if your symptoms do not appear to be severe. Your intervention and self-care will be of the utmost importance in the healing process. It is this healing process that will determine how much long-term damage will take place in your body. The prevention of the scar tissue and arthritis that follows these injuries will determine the amount of pain and suffering that you can possibly avoid in future years. By following the specified regimes you may avoid any of the pain and suffering that is waitting to recurr at the slightest impact to the area.