What is a whiplash injury?

Whiplash injury refers to a violent backward and forward movement of the head and neck like a whip, resulting in injury to the structures of the cervical spine. It is a fairly common injury that leads to significant neck pain and associated disability.

The most common mode is sudden deceleration while travelling in a vehicle or a rear end impact that pushes the head backwards followed by a rapid forward swing of the head that injures the muscles, joints and ligaments of the cervical spine. This mechanism of injury can result in a cervical spine fracture or dislocation with spinal cord injury or even a brain injury in some.

Other modes of injury include a fall with impact on head or face, assault with direct blow to the head or upper back or violent shaking of the body. Contact sports also can result in such injuries.

Symptoms include neck and upper back pain, head aches and stiffness of the neck. Rarely, neurological symptoms like numbness or weakness in the upper or lower limbs may also be found after a whiplash injury.

The symptoms may lead to irritability and mental stress, inability to concentrate on work, sometimes leading to change of job or loss of employment in a small percentage. Although a secondary gain behaviour is blamed in some of these patients, the significant chronic pain being the cause cannot be completely ruled out.

Most of the patients with acute whiplash injury get better in a few weeks with rest, medications and physiotherapy and exercises. But the symptoms may persist beyond 12 weeks in some of them and lead to chronic neck pain and related disability (chronic whiplash syndrome). Severe initial symptoms, age more than 35 years, females are at a higher risk of developing chronic symptoms of whiplash injury.

The severity of a whiplash injury can be reduced by having a head rest in the vehicles that limitation the backward excursion of the head in the event of a rear end collision. Although there is no certain way of averting such injuries completely, exercises to keep the neck and upper back muscles stronger may help reduce the intensity of the injury.

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Dr Phani Kiran S

Experience and Professionalism

With years of experience in spine surgery, Dr Phani Kiran SSenior Consultant Spine Surgeon will assess you and suggest the treatment option that is right for you.

We at Medspine clinics, understand the importance of educating all our patients about the spinal problems and the most effective ways to take care of their spine.

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