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Whiplash injuries are also known as acceleration/deceleration injuries and need not be a result of car accident. In fact you do not have to hit your head or neck. Just a sudden movement, especially if it is repetitive, may cause a whiplash injury.

A slip, a fall, or a collision on the sports field with an opponent can all give you a whiplash injury. In a road accident all it can take is 8km/h or 5mph of velocity to cause whiplash symptoms. So even a 'minor' bumper bashing can give whiplash neck injury.

You may have been told that there is no evidence of an injury to your neck from the neck x-rays taken at the hospital. However, this is often the case, because initially nothing may show up on a neck x-ray unless the accident was very severe and caused a dislocation or fracture of the bones. X-rays only show bone. Cervical disc injury and neck muscle strain injuries cannot be seen as the x-ray passes through them. Sometimes if a more serious injury is suspected CAT scans or MRI scans are taken at the hospital.

Whiplash Symptoms

Whiplash symptoms can sometimes take months or even longer to appear, as your body can compensate in the short term.

Rather than just a simple injury of a neck muscle strain or neck ligament sprain, research shows that during a road traffic accident involving a rear-end shunt, the neck curves in an abnormal S-shape which alters normal neck movement.

Normally the joints at the back of your neck glide over each other and are self-lubricated, but a whiplash injury forces them together. This can damage the surrounding area including your spinal nerves, neck muscles, ligaments and back discs.

There are tiny nerve receptors in the neck ligaments, muscles and in the spinal joint capsule surrounding the vertebral joints called, proprioceptors. These relay constant information to your brain about the position of the joints. If these proprioceptors have been disturbed, you may experience some of the following whiplash symptoms :

The result is a loss of proper movement in the joints in your neck and stiffness in your muscles. This can lead to pain, although it may take days, weeks or even months to develop.

Remember pain is a warning sign that something isn't functioning properly.

Whiplash Treatment

Whiplash treatment is dependent on the severity of the whiplash.

In the early stages of a whiplash injury if there is lots of inflammation and limited movement due to pain then whiplash treatment is focused on calming the inflammation. When pain levels have improved to a suitable level gentle then hands-on work on the vertebral joints can begin.

Once the beginning whiplash treatment has gotten you past the initial pain and discomfort rehabilitation exercises is done for the long-term care.

It is important, therefore, to have an active and managed treatment plan for whiplash that aims to improve neck movement and relaxing the strained muscles. Also an an exercise programme from a biokinetist/physiotherapist to help reactivate the muscles of your neck and improve balance.

Common Whiplash Questions

How about Wearing a Neck Collar?

Although in the acute whiplash injury stage a soft collar may be worn for a short time (1-6 weeks), though cervical collars should not be relied upon for a long time (months-years). If you become reliant on a neck brace, the muscles of your neck will become weaker as their job is being done by the neck collar. This would lead to dependency on the soft collar and further pain in the future. So make sure if you have to wear a soft collar because of whiplash then seek the opinion of your local healthcare professional about when it can come off.

I think I have Whiplash, How Do You Tell?

It is always best to have your neck checked after a whiplash incident, like a car crash. Even if you have just "bumped your head" it is very important to have it checked. Your chiropractor can check your neck and if need take or refer you for a neck x-ray to check if there are any serious problems. Pain is the usual sign you may have a whiplash injury.

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