Whiplash is an injury to the neck region, involving a forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck. CAD, or cervical acceleration-deceleration is the mechanism of injury involving the neck suddenly being thrown into hyperextension (backward) and then a hyperflexion (forward) position.

Whiplash injury involves damage to the bone structures and the soft tissues that hold the cervical vertebrae together (ligaments, muscles, and tendons).

Woman with a whiplash injury. JOI RehabWoman with a Whiplash Injury

Symptoms of Whiplash

Symptoms of whiplash Include:

  • pain and ache to the neck and back regions
  • loss of range of motion of the neck
  • tightness and muscle spasm around the neck
  • headaches
  • tingling and/or numbness to the arms and legs
  • referred pain to the shoulders
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Most whiplash injury symptoms go away anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Most people fully recover within three months, but some people report recurring pain a year or more later.

What are the Causes of Whiplash?

The quick answer is a whiplash injury maybe caused by number of different mechanisms, most often seen in rear-end automobile collisions, but also could be the result of sports injuries, skiing accidents, rollercoasters, or from being hit, kicked, or shaken. 

Any impact or blow that causes your head to snap forward and then back again can cause a whiplash injury. The sudden force causes a stretch or tear to the anterior longitudinal ligament in the front of the neck.

Illustration of how a whiplash injury can occur. JOI RehabWhiplash Injury

Treatment of Whiplash

The treatments for whiplash consists of a variety of management options depending on the severity of the symptoms. If there is no evidence of abnormal spinal alignment, current research supports active movement of the spine to expedite the healing process. 

The best way to recover is to include an active rehabilitation program. Physical therapy can be helpful to strengthen the muscles around the neck, improve the range of motion of the neck, and to decrease pain symptoms related to whiplash injuries. 

Physical therapy can also provide important education involving proper postural awareness and body mechanics with ADLs (activities of daily living) such as lifting or prolonged sitting positions. 

Education is key to help the patient better understand the good chances for successful recovery and reduce the chances of chronic symptoms.

At JOI, we provide multiple treatment options to help relieve the pain and symptoms associated with whiplash and to speed up recovery time to allow the patient to return to work and recreational activities as soon as possible.

Treatments available at the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute:

By: Kelly Rocheleau PT

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