What is Whiplash injury

Whiplash injury is a soft tissue injury to the neck, or a neck strain/sprain. The neck is made up by the cervical spine, the first seven vertebrae of the back. Areas of the vertebrae commonly affected are the intervertebral joints (the joints between each vertebrae), the intervertebral discs (the soft material that cushions one vertebrae from another), and the ligaments, muscles and nerve roots that hold the vertebrae together.

Statistics on Whiplash injury

Approxiamately 120,000 whiplash injuries occur in the US each year. The statistics vary for different countries.

Risk Factors for Whiplash injury

Whiplash injury usually results from sudden flexion and extension of the neck due to rear-end or side-impact car accidents.

Progression of Whiplash injury

Generally, whiplash injury causes acute neck pain and stiffness within hours of the accident, however these symptoms may in some cases be delayed for several days.
Pain should resolve with treatment after several weeks, and most patients are fully recovered within three months of the injury. Some individuals may continue to suffer pain and headaches after this.

How is Whiplash injury Diagnosed?

X-rays of the neck should be performed to make sure a fracture or other major injury is not present. Chronic cases should be fully investigated for damage that may be correctable with surgery.

Prognosis of Whiplash injury

Most people make a fully recovery from whiplash. More than 50% of cases resolve after a few weeks of treatment. However, approximately 30% of cases become chronic and persist for months or years.

How is Whiplash injury Treated?

Treatment involves a combination of pain medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants and a cervical collar, in conjunction with physiotherapy.

Whiplash injury References

[1] The National Institue of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2001), Whiplash, [Online], Available from: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and_medical/disorders/whiplash.htm
[2] Klippel, J.H., Dieppe, P.A. & Ferri, F.F. 1999, Primary Care Rheumatology, Mosby International, London.