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Whiplash: recognizing the signs and how is it treated?

Whiplash describes the motion of your head and neck when it is suddenly accelerated and then snapped backwards from swift deceleration, resulting in a whipping motion. Whiplash injuries occur when the soft tissues of your neck are over extended. The fast back and forth motion extends your tissue beyond the normal range of motion, resulting in pain and sensitivity. Most whiplash cases are the result of a car accident, especially rear end collisions.

Whiplash can result in strained or sprained neck muscles. While those two ailments are often used interchangeably a sprain refers to the stretching or tearing of ligaments and a strain applies to muscle tissue or tendon injuries.

What are the symptoms?

Whiplash has several common symptoms that are easily recognizable.

  • Neck pain and stiffness or tenderness in neck and shoulders
  • Difficulty turning your head or increased pain with neck movement
  • Headaches, typically concentrated at the base of the skull
  • Tingling or numbness in arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

How is whiplash treated?

First, a medical diagnosis is the key to determining the severity of the injury. Most treatments are designed to control pain and aid healing. At home treatments include:

  • Ice or heat
  • Over the counter or prescription pain medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Stretching exercises

It is important to keep in mind that whiplash symptoms may take several days to appear. If you have been in a collision, you may feel fine immediately following the accident, but you could still have whiplash. If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to seek medical treatment to prevent further strain.

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