Friday, 3rd July 2020

This Month's Magazine
Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash Injuries

Every year thousands of accident victims suffer this painful and often long-term injury

Imagine you are driving and the car behind hits your own at speed. The impact pushes your car forward; it takes about 100 milliseconds for your body to catch up to the forward movement. Your shoulders travel forward until they are under your head and your neck extends forward as your head tilts slightly down towards your steering wheel. You slam on the breaks bringing the car to an abrupt halt, the sudden stop throws your head and neck backwards and they bounce against the head rest. In a matter of seconds you’ve experienced the classic mechanism of injury for whiplash.

About 20% of people involved in rear end collisions later experience symptoms that centre in the neck region. Although most of these people quickly recover, a small number develop chronic conditions that result in severe pain and sometimes disability.

How whiplash injuries occur is clearly understood, but the extent and type of injuries varies greatly. The diagnosis of whiplash is often one of exclusion; most injuries are to soft tissues, such as the disks, muscles and ligaments and cannot be seen on standard X Rays. Your doctor may need to request specialized tests, such as computed tomography scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


In the past whiplash injuries were often treated with immobilization in a cervical collar, however, the current trend is to encourage early movement rather than immobilization. The soft collar may be used for a short term and on an intermittent basis.

Ice may be applied for the first 24 hours, followed by gentle active movement. Your doctor may provide you with a series of exercises that you can do at home, an early return to work is encouraged, even if your doctor must prescribe some temporary modifications in your work situation.

No single treatment has been scientifically proven as effective, but pain reliving medication, exercising, physiotherapy, traction, heat, ice, injections and ultrasound have all been beneficial for some patients.

As soon as possible you should begin aerobic activities, such as walking; your doctor may prescribe some isometric exercises as your condition improves. Symptoms resolve within several months for about 75% of people who suffer whiplash injuries, although chronic conditions should be investigated further and may even require surgery.

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