Whiplash is an injury to the neck resulting from a sudden forward and backward motion of the head and neck. It is a common injury in a rear-end car collision that damages the intervertebral joints, nerve roots, discs, cervical muscles and/or ligaments. The mechanism of injury is similar to the cracking of a whip.
Symptoms of Whiplash
The symptoms of whiplash can develop immediately or within the first several days. The symptoms include the following:
· Neck pain
· Neck stiffness
· Sleep disturbance
· Problems concentrating or remembering things
· Shoulder pain or pain between the shoulder blades
· Low back pain
· Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
While many people will recover within a few months after appropriate treatment, other people will experience chronic neck pain or other continuous complications.
How Do You Diagnose Whiplash?
You need to make an appointment with a medical professional (orthopedic doctor, chiropractor, etc.) It is important that you explain the movement of your body during the incident causing your injury and your current symptoms. Your doctor will perform a physical examination to determine the severity of your injury. This will help your doctor decide if you need further testing to help diagnose your injury determine the necessary treatment. Commonly, if the issues do not resolve after 3 months, a more detailed exam will need to be done.
The following diagnostic procedures are common:
X-rays will be done right away if your doctor suspects there is a fracture or your spine is not stable. X-rays will show the height of your discs, if you have any bone spurs, or even arthritis. However, X-rays will not show a bulging or herniated disc, among other injuries.
An MRI may be necessary if your doctor suspects you have a herniated disc, annular tear, or a nerve root or spinal cord compression.
A CT Scan with contrast (dye) may be used to determine a whiplash injury leading to possible bone damage.
Other less common tests include:
Discography involves an injection to the disc to determine whether the disc is the cause of your pain. This test is only used in patients with severe pain that is not improved with initial treatment.
An EMG (electromyography; nerve conduction) may be used if your doctor suspects there is nerve damage.
How is Whiplash Treated?
In the first few weeks following your injury, therapy may be necessary to loosen the ligaments and/or to develop muscle strength. Initial treatment may also include the use of a neck brace for stability.
If symptoms do not lessen or subside after 12 weeks, a referral to a spine specialist is often necessary.
In many cases, medication are helpful to control the symptoms. The type of medicine you should use depends on the duration and severity of your pain as well as your general medical condition. The kinds of medications that are prescribed for a whiplash injury include anti-inflammatory medicine, muscle relaxers, and even narcotics.
For more severe chronic injuries, spinal injections may be necessary to control pain. An orthopedic doctor, or spinal specialist, will help determine if pain injections will provide relief.
The final step involves surgery for chronic pain, which cannot be treated conservatively.
St. Louis Car Crash Attorney
If you have suffered a whiplash injury in a rear-end car crash, you need to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.