Whiplash is pain and stiffness in the neck after an injury that has caused the neck to move suddenly or beyond its normal range.
It occurs when the head is suddenly forced backward or forward and is then snapped in the other direction. This kind of motion most often happens to people in a car that is hit from behind. The motion causes stretching or tears (sprains) of muscles and ligaments in the neck, and it may damage the nerves.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of whiplash are pain and stiffness in the neck and sometimes in the muscles in your head, chest, shoulders, and arms. You also may have a headache, feel dizzy, and have pain in your back.
You may not have any symptoms immediately after the injury. It may occur a few days later.
You may have a more serious injury if you have:
- Severe pain in your neck.
- Pain down one or both arms.
- Pain that comes back after being gone for a few days.
- Numbness or tingling in your hands, arms or legs.
- Weakness in your arms, hands, or legs.
- Inability to move your head.
How is whiplash diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your neck injury and past health history, and he or she will carefully examine your head and neck. You may need X-rays to make sure there are no broken bones in your neck.
How is whiplash treated?
Most whiplash improves with home treatment. Things you can do include:
- Your doctor may prescribe oral NSAIDs medicines and muscle relaxers to help with continuing or severe pain.
- You can try using a soft foam collar to support your neck for short periods of time.
- Physical therapy could help you.
After your neck pain is gone, do exercises to stretch your neck and back and make them stronger. Your doctor or physical therapist can tell you which exercises are best.
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