Whiplash is a very common injury that occurs with the cervical (area related to the neck) spine.
The majority of people who experience whiplash are due to a deceleration injuries such as a car accident. The motion that occurs with these accidents is a backward then forward motion stretching all the muscles and ligaments in the cervical spine. This causes a sprain/strain of the cervical musculature. Symptoms from this type of injury include stiffness, soreness, pain in the cervical musculature areas, as well as muscle spasm. Range of motion is also lost due to the significant trauma done to the muscles and ligaments. When a patient presents with these symptoms, it is very important to rule out any neurologic problems or potential fractures. This all begins with taking a detailed history and physical. Also X-rays are utilized to rule out fractures. If a neurologic injury is suspected, other diagnostics are ordered such as a MRI. Serious symptoms to watch for include numbness, tingling, and shooting pain down the arms.
Treatment of whiplash after serious injuries have been ruled out starts with a conservative approach. The cervical muscles after whiplash can become very painful. Most patients do not want to move their neck due to increased pain. However, this is actually the best treatment. Early initiation of physical therapy can drastically improve the speed of the recovery. Often patients have an idea that pills will cure any condition. Yes we do utilize anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxer medications for whiplash but ultimately the best treatment begins and ends with participation in a solid physical therapy program. For the patients that just cannot do physical therapy because of pain, we use trigger point injections to calm down the pain response. Often this takes the edge off the pain so the rehabilitation process can be advanced.
The duration of recovery is variable from patient to patient. We have seen patients recover in two weeks but others in six months. Whiplash injuries are treatable and patients generally recover faster if treatment is initiated early. If you have sustained a neck injury, come see us at Prairie Spine & Pain Institute and get back on the road to recovery.
About The Author: Derek N. Morrow, PA-C is a physician assistant with Prairie Spine and Pain Institute. Derek works in the clinic setting as a health care provider seeing patients. He is also utilized in the operating room as a first assist in surgery. In the clinic setting, his key function is to diagnose new patients and conduct their initial treatment. He works directly with patients to establish customized treatment programs and to monitor their progress. He also conducts history and physical evaluations for many patients. He performs many office procedures including trigger point injections, large joint injections, and bursa injections, all with the help of ultrasound guidance. He is radiologically trained, and uses his knowledge of X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, CT, and EMG-Nerve Conduction Studies to establish a diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment. Derek is surgically trained and plays a vital role in the procedures we perform at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute.