A whiplash injury involves the rapid movement of the head and neck forward and backward resulting in minor and major trauma to the soft tissues in the neck area. Whiplash injuries can be acute and chronic wherein chronic whiplash may result in significant discomforts for weeks.
The injuries arising from whiplash is usually the result of over extension of the neck from motor vehicular accidents, falls, head bangs, and bicycle or horseback riding accidents. Whiplash from motor accidents is usually a result of being hit on the rear.
Whiplash injuries can be mild to severe. Those experiencing low-impact rear collisions may just experience transient pain on the neck. However, severe injuries may even lead to spinal cord injury that can significantly affect your mobility and may cause intense pain. Whiplash injury is considered an emergency situation especially when severe spinal injury is suspected. Managements both involve supportive as well as aggressive managements depending on the severity of the injury. The following are the most common treatment options for whiplash injuries:
• Administration of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs
Non-narcotic analgesics are usually prescribed to aid in the relief of pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as celecoxib can also be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation as a result of the injury.
• Administration of muscle relaxants and anti-depressants
Following a whiplash, the muscles around the neck may also suffer from tightening and spasms. In this line, muscle relaxants and certain anti-depressants help in relieving muscle spasms on the area.
Following the acute phase of injury, immobilization is required to prevent further extension of the injured neck. Soft collars are usually placed within 72 hours. Following the 72 hours of acute injury, soft collars are removed because prolonged use may just lead to prolonged inactivity of the neck joint that may lead to further reduction in optimum levels of functioning. However, severe injury may require the cervical collar for at most 3 weeks.
• Use of Range of motion exercises
Whiplash injuries may also cause the cervical vertebrae to reduce its range of motion due to muscle tightness. Stretching exercises as well as active ROM exercises help in achieving full flexibility of the neck muscles.
• Physical therapy
Physical therapy helps patients achieve faster rehabilitation from the injury. Physical therapy may involve massages, exercises and others.
• Application of heat
Heat has been used to relieve muscle spasms and muscle tension. Hot compress must be placed at most 15 minutes three times a day.
• Application of cervical traction
Cervical traction is also employed to relieve nerve root compression from impacted vertebrae as a result of the physical injury. Traction prevents nerve root irritation and also relieves pain.
Manipulation is also done by trained medical professionals to correct any spinal deformity that has occurred due to the over extension of the neck. In this line, seeking treatment from certified chiropractors has proven to be safer because chiropractors are trained and certified to do spinal manipulations safely.
Treatment of whiplash indeed requires both home managements as well as expert management. If you have experienced whiplash, it is better to consult a doctor or a chiropractor to have a professional advice on how to treat the condition efficiently preventing possible complications.