Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by the neck bending forcibly forward and then backward, or vice versa. The injury, which is poorly understood, usually involves the muscles, discs, nerves, and tendons in the neck.
Most whiplash injuries are the result of a collision that includes sudden acceleration or deceleration. Many whiplash injuries occur when a person is involved in a rear-end automobile collision, or as a result of a sports injury, particularly during contact sports.
The following are the most common symptoms of whiplash. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Ringing in ears
Concentration or memory problems
The symptoms of whiplash may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for whiplash may include the following (as many whiplash injuries include damage to soft tissue that can't be seen on X-rays):
Computed tomography (CT) scan. A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This diagnostic procedure uses a combination of large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and soft tissue structures within the body.
Specific treatment for whiplash will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the injury
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the injury
Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
Ice applications for the first 24 hours
Cervical collar, with limited use (less than 3 hours at a time)
Gentle, active movement after 24 hours
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
Muscle relaxing medications