I was rear-ended sitting at a stop sign last week. In the emergency room the doctors told me I had whiplash. The pain has gotten slightly better but I still have pain from the bottom of my head into my shoulders. Will this get better on its own or do I need to see a specialist, and why did they not get x-rays in the emergency room?
Answer from Spinal Specialist:
Whiplash is a very common injury to the soft tissues of the neck that can happen when the neck suddenly moves backward and then forward. The soft tissues that can be involved in a whiplash injury include the ligaments and the muscles of the neck that support the head and hold it erect. People with whiplash, like you, may have neck pain, stiffness, and tightness radiating from the head out into the shoulders and upper back. Since whiplash injures the soft tissues of the neck, and not the bones, x-rays are not routinely ordered in the emergency room.
The most common reasons for whiplash include motor vehicle accidents, sporting injuries, or falls (ie; from a bicycle or stool).
Whiplash can range from mild to severe. However, most people with whiplash usually recover completely within a few weeks. If your pain is not getting better after a few weeks, then you may need to see a spinal specialist who may order spinal imaging (starting with an x-ray) or prescribe treatments including therapies, exercises, and medications to improve your symptoms.
Most of the time whiplash does not lead to long-term neck problems and people with whiplash do not usually have trouble with degenerative changes or arthritis in their neck once they are healed.
If you experience prolonged pain related to whiplash it is imperative to have a spinal specialist examine your condition and assess the most effective treatment to decrease pain and restore function.
Source: www.spinemd.com; Dr. Christopher Good; March 1, 2012.