Whiplash Injury

Neck | Orthopaedics | Whiplash Injury (Disease)


Whiplash is a relatively common injury that occurs to a persons neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force, most commonly from motor vehicle accidents. The term whiplash was first used in 1928. The term railway spine was used to describe a similar condition that was common in persons involved in train accidents prior to 1928.

While most people involved in minor motor vehicle accidents recover quickly without any chronic symptoms, some continue to experience symptoms for years after the injury. This wide variation in symptoms after relatively minor injuries has led some to suggest that, in many cases, whiplash is not so much a real physiologic injury, but that symptoms are more created as a result of potential economic gain. Many clinical studies have investigated this issue.

Causes and Risk factors

The term whiplash injury describes damage to both the bone structures and soft tissues, while whiplash associated disorders describes a more severe and chronic condition. Fortunately, whiplash is typically not a life threatening injury, but it can lead to a prolonged period of partial disability.

Whiplash is most commonly caused by a motor vehicle accident in which the car the person is riding in is not moving, and is struck from a vehicle from behind without notice. It is commonly thought the rear impact causes the head and neck to be forced into hyperextension as the seat pushes the persons torso forward - and the unrestrained head and neck fall backwards. After a short delay the head and neck then recover and are thrown into a hyper flexed position.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The medical treatment for whiplash depends on the severity of the injury. Severe neck injuries associated with bone or spinal cord damage may require surgical intervention. Less severe injuries are often limited to soft tissue injuries (muscles, ligaments, tendons) and treatment is directed at symptom relief. ...

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