Whiplash is a condition triggered by injury to the soft tissues of the cervical spine or neck area. In most cases, whiplash is a strain of the muscles or sprain of the ligaments that move and support the spine and head. Oftentimes, whiplash occurs after an abrupt, unexpected movement of extension and flexion of the neck, typically during a vehicular accident. This can also occur after sleeping or holding the neck in an awkward position.
Causes of a neck strain
The neck is prone to whiplash injury due to the demands placed on the cervical spine. Take note that the cervical vertebrae are linked with ligaments and supported by muscles. These structures should provide the head with support and allow wide range of motion. These demands put the neck at risk for whiplash or a strain on the neck.
Treatment for whiplash
A momentary period of rest for the muscles of the neck can help reduce the early pain and spasm of the neck muscles after sustaining whiplash. Allowing the ligaments and muscles surrounding the cervical spine to properly rest and recuperate is a vital part of the treatment. On the other hand, prolonged rest is not advised due to the resulting stiffness. Proper assessment by the doctor is required if resting does not alleviate the symptoms of whiplash.
Other simple measures to help reduce the neck strain symptoms include the application of ice packs and heat pads intermittently, anti-inflammatory medications and even physical therapy. The treatment for whiplash must be guided by a doctor. If it is unclear whether the symptoms are caused by a minor neck strain or sprain involving the ligament, these can greatly help. It is vital to determine the precise cause of the sign and symptoms since it might be more than just whiplash that causes the neck pain.
Other possible causes of neck pain
Aside from whiplash, there are other conditions that can cause neck pain in which some of these are serious and require medical attention. Even though the common causes of these symptoms are whiplash or neck strain, there are other signs to watch out for that might indicate other issues.
- Weakness of the arms or hands can be due to compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves that exit the cord. Some of these include spinal stenosis and ruptured discs.
- Pain accompanied by unusual weight changes or fever. The neck pain can be accompanied by symptoms as well as vomiting, nausea, fever, loss of appetite, chills or sweat. Even though unusual, these might be initial signs of tumors or infections.
- Numbness or abnormal sensations in the arms or hands. These might be caused by injury to the spinal cord or nerves. Once these symptoms are present, further evaluation is required.
- Lack of any improvement over time. Any issue that does not improve over time requires further evaluation. In case the primary diagnosis is whiplash, but the neck is still problematic, further evaluation is required.