National studies show that more than two million Americans suffer some degree of whiplash every year. Whiplash is a painful and debilitating injury that can have consequences for months or even years.
- The causes of whiplash—Though statistics support the conclusion that whiplash is most commonly caused by a motor vehicle collision, it’s also a common occurrence in sports, such as football, boxing, and gymnastics. You can suffer whiplash at speeds as low as five miles per hour; a significant impact is not required. You can experience whiplash in any situation where there’s an abrupt forward and backward snap of the head.
- What is whiplash?—Whiplash involves damage to the ligaments, nerve roots, muscles, and, potentially, the discs in your neck. Damage may include hyperextension, straining, or tearing.
- How do you know you’ve suffered whiplash?—Don’t be surprised if you don’t feel any significant discomfort immediately after an accident that causes your head to jerk forward or backward. The symptoms of whiplash cantake a few days to appear. Symptoms can include neck pain or stiffness, shoulder pain, lower back pain, headaches, dizziness, changes in sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. If you experience any of these conditions, you should have an MRI or CT scan; standard X-rays won’t show the signs of whiplash.
- How do you treat whiplash?—There are a number of treatment options forwhiplash, including physical therapy, massage, ultrasound, traction, anti-inflammatory medications, and heat and ice. If these approaches are unsuccessful, surgery may be required.
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