What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a description of neck injuries caused by sudden movements of the head and neck in any direction; some people describe it as a sprain of the neck
It is commonly a result of road traffic accidents.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Pain is mainly in the neck, but it could spread to the shoulders as well. This pain could get worse as the muscle spasm starts few days later causing stiffness and reduced movements of the neck and shoulders.
Some people might have pins and needles in the arms and legs, as well as some headache from the muscle spasm.
These symptoms could start straight away after the injury, or it could take up to 6-12 hours for the pain to start. It is common to wake up the day after a road traffic accident and find that the pain has begun – as the neck has gone in to spasm overnight.
How can we diagnose whiplash?
It is usually diagnosed by a doctor based on the history of the injury and examination. There is no need for any further testing in a standard simple whiplash injury.
How does the condition progress?
The outcome is generally good and most people get better following simple treatment as discussed below.
How can we treat whiplash?
Generally, should be treated as any sprain.
Initially, frozen peas ice packs could be helpful to relieve the inflammation, with a light towel or t shirt to cover the plastic.
It is very important to get on top of the pain to prevent stiffness. Therefore, simple regular pain killers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are good idea. If these do not help, then you will need to talk to a doctor to prescribe stronger pain killers. Ibuprofen or Diclofenac gel are available from pharmacies.
The most important step in treating whiplash is to stay active and keep moving the neck .if you really have to use a neck supportive collar, then it should be limited to less than 72 hours, otherwise it might make the stiffness worse.
A simple exercise to do is to gently bend your neck forward trying to touch your chest, and then bend it backwards trying to look at the ceiling. After that, tilt your head sideways trying to touch your shoulders with your ears.
What are the symptoms of a severe injury that requires a review by a specialist?
You need to talk to a doctor if there is weakness or unusual sensation in your arms or legs, or if your symptoms do not improve after 3 months.
How can I prevent a whiplash injury?
The best way to try to prevent whiplash is to adjust the head rest in your car correctly so that it is behind the head and not behind the neck, this will prevent your head from going backwards.
What are the complications of whiplash?
As discussed earlier, most people recover fully in 3 months, sometimes the stiffness could take a long time to settle causing prolonged pain.
Can I drive if I have a whiplash?
It is your responsibility to make sure that you have full control of the car at all times ,particularly if you have to make an emergency manouvre.it is judged on a case by case basis and advice from the insurance provider is recommended.
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