Dear Medical Solutions,
I was involved in an automobile accident and was told that I have a whiplash. I plan on calling your office for an appointment, but I am so busy now at work. It seems that my neck pain is getting worse. What exactly is a whiplash and what could I do for it?
A whiplash injury is most often caused by an injury in which the head is forced in hyperextension and hyperflexion (flung backwards and forwards). Following an accident a person may also have an injury caused by rotation (turning of the head) and compression (when the force of impact lands on the top of the head). Automobile accidents are responsible for many whiplash injuries. A common scenario is when a seat-belted person’s head continues to move forward during a frontal impact and is then often thrown backwards afterwards. After a whiplash injury, some individuals engage in occupational activities that aggravate their condition. Occupations requiring repetitive or prolonged neck extension may aggravate a whiplash, such as sitting at a computer keyboard straining to see a poorly adjusted monitor, trying to see the monitor through bifocal lenses, and tucking a telephone into the person’s shoulder for much of the day. Postural attitudes including sleep position can also aggravate this condition. The cardinal symptom of whiplash is neck pain, however, it is common for a person to be initially pain free after an accident since it takes 12-24 hours for inflammatory changes to set in. Individuals who experience immediate pain after a whiplash serves as a red flag of a more serious injury. Other symptoms to be wary of include arm pain, upper back pain, tingling down the upper extremity to the thumb and index finger, numbness, uncoordination, and dizziness. Difficulty chewing, swallowing, and breathing occur on rare occasions. The neck contains many vital anatomic structures, the most critical being the airway, the spinal cord, and the blood vessels that supply the brain. Unlike the rest of the spine thoracic, lumbar, and sacral), which is relatively more protected, the cervical spine is more vulnerable to injury. This portion of the spine is encased in a relatively small amount of muscles and ligaments. With a whiplash injury, vital structures are at risk including fractures and dislocations of vertebra, and significant injuries to the blood vessels and the spinal cord. Individuals with whiplash injuries should have a Chiropractic examination to determine what kind of treatment is required. Without proper spinal rehabilitation, a patient who sustained a whiplash injury is susceptible to