is condition caused by injury to the
soft-tissue structures of the cervical
spine, or neck region. Usually whiplash
is a strain of the muscles or sprain
of the ligaments that move and support
the spine and head. Often whiplash
occurs after a sudden, unexpected
movement of extension and flexion
of the neck, most commonly during
a car crash. This can also be the
result of sleeping or holding the
neck in an awkward position.
did I get a neck strain?
neck is prone to a whiplash type of
injury because of the demands placed
on the cervical spine. The cervical
vertebrae are connected with ligaments
and supported by muscles.
Together, these structures must provide
our heads with support and allow a
wide range of motions. These demands
make our necks prone to whiplash or
neck strain injury. When the muscles
or ligaments are injured, and the
demands of the cervical spine are
compromised, and the resulting pain
quickly interferes with our daily
lives. That's why whiplash injuries
are so problematic.
do I treat whiplash?
brief period of resting the neck muscles
will help alleviate the initial pain
and spasm of the neck muscles after
whiplash. Allowing the muscles and
ligaments around the cervical spine
to rest and recover is an important
aspect of treatment. However, prolonged
rest may be ill-advised, because of
resulting stiffness. If resting does
not alleviate symptoms of whiplash,
you should have further evaluation
by your doctor.
A few other simple steps may help
your neck strain symptoms:
- Apply ice packs and heat pads intermittently
- Try an anti-inflammatory medication
- Consider physical therapy for stretching
All treatment of neck strain injuries
should be guided by a physician. If
it is clear that your symptoms are
due to a simple neck strain or ligament
sprain, then these steps should help
your condition. It is important, however,
to know the cause of the symptoms,
because more than just whiplash can
cause neck pain.
What other than
whiplash could be causing my neck
There are many
other conditions that can cause neck
pain, some of which are serious and
require medical attention. While the
most common cause of these symptoms
are whiplash or neck strain, there
are other signs to watch for that
could indicate other problems:
Weakness of the hands or
arms These symptoms may be due to compression
of the spinal cord or the spinal nerves
which exit the cord. Some causes of
this include ruptured discs and spinal
abnormal sensations in the hands and
arms Again, these symptoms can be cause
by injury to the spinal cord or nerves.
If these symptoms are present, then
you should have further evaluation.
Pain accompanied by unusual
weight changes or fevers It is important that neck pain
accompanied by these symptoms, as
well as nausea, vomiting, loss of
appetite, fevers, chills, or sweats,
be further evaluated. While it is
unusual, these can be the first signs
of infections or tumors.
Lack of improvement over time Any problem such as this that
does not improve over time should
be further evaluated. If the initial
diagnosis is whiplash, but the neck
continues to be problematic, further
evaluation should take place.
There are chronic conditions (such
as arthritis and osteoporosis) and
acute problems (such as fractures)
that can cause symptoms similar to
a neck strain. If your symptoms worsen
instead of improve, or if they are
not relieved with rest, you should
see a doctor.