“Whiplash” is a kind of catch-all term to describe injuries that occur after an incident that causes a person’s head to violently snap back and forth. Probably the most common cause of whiplash is when a vehicle is struck from behind by another car or truck, but sports injuries and slip, trip and falls can also result in whiplash injuries. Whiplash injuries can range from mild to severe depending on how severely a person’s neck hyperextends or compresses as a result of an impact. Moreover, symptoms may not be immediate or even appear for several days following a trauma to the neck.
So what are the symptoms of whiplash? It really depends on how a person’s head, neck and spine react to the trauma or impact that caused the whiplash. Less severe whiplash may result in minimal or no pain or stiffness. Mid level whiplash may cause pain radiating to areas such as the face, head, back and shoulders, as well as possible muscle spasms that cause difficulty in moving one’s head and/or neck. More serious whiplash can cause quite devastating symptoms including numbness, weakness, headaches, dizziness, vision and sleep disturbances, as well as neurological problems associated with trauma to the vertebrae, discs, and nerve roots in the spine.
The types of treatment and length of treatment for whiplash type injuries is generally dictated by the severity of symptoms a person experiences after sustaining trauma to the head and neck. For less severe instances of whiplash, one or more of the following may be all that is needed: Anti-inflammatory medications, pain medication, muscle relaxers, immobilization and/or physical therapy. For more severe instances of whiplash, a person may need some or all of the above plus electrical nerve stimulation, injections and in some cases, spinal surgery. Obviously, the time and potential for a full recovery will depend on the severity of the damage caused by the whiplash event. Some may recover in weeks. Others may have permanent damage and never fully recover.