What is whiplash?

Often associated with automobile accidents or other high velocity incidents, whiplash is a condition often affecting the spine.  During a traumatic event, forces can injure the physical structures in the spine, most frequently in the neck and lower back.  Muscles and ligaments may become stretched and the bones and joints of the spine may be affected.  Nerves, discs and other tissues may be affected as a result.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, which is often increased with certain movements.  The pain can vary and range from a dull ache to a stabbing, sharp pain. Stiffness and decreased range of motion may also accompany the injury.  Neurological symptoms such as weakness, numbness or tingling may also result.  Cervical (neck) whiplash can often cause increased muscle tension in the neck as well as headaches or migraines.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose whiplash, your physician will review your health history and complete a physical examination.  Imaging or other tests may also be used to assist in diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Treatment of whiplash often includes measures to reduce pain and restore function.  This may involve medication or injections.  Physical therapy is often beneficial in regaining motion and strength in the injured area.  If conservative measures are ineffective, surgery may be beneficial.

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