Whiplash injuries occur when there is a hyperextension (over-extension) injury to the neck, often the result of being struck from behind, as in a car accident. The hyperextension is caused by the victim’s body initially being pushed or accelerated forward, and due to its weight, the head remains stationary momentarily, effectively making it swing backwards and upwards. As this happens, some muscles and ligaments may be stretched or torn. As a reflex action to this, these neck muscles contract in an effort to bring the head forward again. This, in turn, can cause overcompensation resulting in the head recoiling violently forward (hyperflexion), stretching and tearing more muscles and ligaments.
It can be difficult to diagnose whiplash because x rays and other imaging methods are not always successful in revealing changes in bone structure. Also, whiplash may produce symptoms that are not clearly related to the original whiplash injury as organs can be affected by nerve damage or reduced blood supply. Diagnosis is based on symptoms, medical history, physical examination, and neurological studies to determine whether the spine has been injured.
Who Is Affected by Whiplash?
Both sexes, and all ages.
What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
- Pain or stiffness in the neck, jaw, shoulders, or arms.
- Numbness or pain in the arm or hand.
- Lower back pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Blurred vision.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
N.B. Depression and vision problems are rare symptoms of this condition.