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What is Whiplash?

For those who have been involved in a traffic accident you will know how frightening an exerience it can be. For those injured in a traffic accident, you know just how painful soft tissue neck injury or ‘whiplash’ is.

A whiplash neck sprain occurs when your head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards (or forwards then backwards) in a whip-like movement, or is suddenly forcibly rotated. This can cause some neck muscles and ligaments to stretch more than normal (sprain). It can also occur if the head is thrown left to right or right to left as in a side impact collision.

The symptoms of whiplash can take a few hours to appear and may get worse over time.

Some people are surprised at having symptoms after a minor car crash. Even slow car bumps may cause enough jerking of the neck to cause symptoms.

Less commonly, a whiplash neck sprain can occur after a sporting injury, or even with everyday activities such as jolting the neck when you trip or fall.

What are the symptoms of a whiplash?

• Pain and stiffness in the neck. The pain and stiffness often become worse on the day after the accident. In about half of cases, the pain first develops the day after the accident
• Turning or bending the neck may be difficult
• You may also feel pain or stiffness in the shoulders or down the arms
• There may be pain and stiffness in the upper and lower part of the back
• Headache is a common symptom
• Dizziness, blurred vision, pain in the jaw or pain on swallowing, unusual sensations of the facial skin may occur for a short while, but soon go. Tell a doctor if any of these persist
• Some people feel tired and irritable for a few days and find it difficult to concentrate

You should talk to your doctor as soon as your start to suffer with any of these symptoms. For more information visit NHS Direct

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will usually be able to diagnose a whiplash neck sprain from the description of the way the accident occurred, the typical symptoms, and by examining you. On examination the doctor should check that there are no signs of damage to the vertebrae or spinal nerves or spinal cord. If these are suspected then further tests may be recommended.

What are the treatments for a whiplash neck sprain? whiplash

Exercise your neck and keep active It may seem impossible but aim to keep your neck moving as normally as possible. If the pain is bad then you may need to rest the neck for a day or so. However, gently exercise the neck as soon as you are able. Try not to let it ‘stiffen up’. Gradually try to increase the range of neck movements. Every few hours gently move the neck in each direction. Do this several times a day. As far as possible, continue with normal activities. Medicines Painkillers are often helpful and may be recommended by your doctor.

Some other treatments which may be advised include:
• A good posture may help. Check that your sitting position at work or at the computer is not poor. (That is, not with your head flexed forward with a stooped back.) Sit upright. Yoga, pilates, and the Alexander technique all improve neck posture, but their value in treating neck pain is uncertain
• A firm supporting pillow seems to help some people when sleeping. Try not to use more than one pillow
• Physiotherapy. Various treatments may be advised by a physiotherapist if the pain is not settling. These include traction, heat, manipulation, etc

You should go back to see a doctor:
• If the pain becomes worse
• If the pain persists beyond 4-6 weeks
• If other symptoms develop such as loss of feeling (numbness), weakness, or persistent pins and needles in part of an arm or hand. These may indicate irritation to or pressure on a nerve emerging from the spinal cord
Other pain-relieving techniques may be tried if the pain becomes chronic (persistent). Chronic neck pain is also sometimes associated with anxiety and depression which may also need to be treated.

There is also evidence for spinal cord hypersensitivity in chronic pain after whiplash injury and in fibromyalgia. These are specialist claims and you should contact Dr Handley at for further advice. For more information click here

If you are suffering with Whiplash as a result of an accident that was not your fault then get in touch with us today by calling 0845 676 9228

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