A whiplash injury of the cervical spine (neck):symptoms, treatment, consequences

Causes, symptoms and treatment of whiplash injury neck

A whiplash injury is damage to the ligaments and the intervertebral joints of the neck. Most often the injury occurs due to strong, sharp bending of the neck forward and fast straightening it in the opposite direction.

Hence the name of the diagnosis is whiplash (whiplash), because at the time of injury, the neck performs a movement like the flick of a switch. The very name of the diagnosis gave us Dr. N. Сrowe in 1928.

Causes of injury

Whiplash an injury to the ligaments and the intervertebral joints is a frequent injury.

It is in situations such as:

  • car accident;
  • sports;
  • the sudden drop;
  • with a sharp blow;
  • when diving into the water.

Most often this injury get the drivers and passengers of the vehicles in the accident.

The injury depends on the severity of the accident and less common in frontal and side collisions.

Typically, a whiplash injury of the cervical spine acquired as a result of blow in the car behind another vehicle or when a sudden, sharp braking.

It happens this way:

  • when you hit the neck badly strained;
  • there is a sharp movement of the cervical forward;
  • the force of inertia of the upper body returns to its original position, ending and tilting the head back.

It is noticed that this trauma can be received by a passenger sitting in any car seat, moreover, most of her exposed wearing seat belts, as the belts hold the body of the body but not the neck.

However, this fact does not negate the important role of restraint devices in preventing other more serious fractures and injuries.

Every year in Russia whiplash trauma are more than 3 million people. Diagnosed among, women 2 times more than men, which may be due to weakness of the neck muscles compared to a strong half of mankind.

Characteristic signs of trauma

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Depending on the nature of injury it may be mild or severe and have different symptoms:

  1. Easy a whiplash injury. If the impact was minor, the person may not feel any symptoms of injury of the cervical spine. Only a few hours, and sometimes days, pain in the neck, neurological manifestations such as dizziness, nausea, numbness of the tips of the fingers. These symptoms may be so mild that the patient complete acceptance of pain medications and not go to the doctor, and after a while the signs of trauma cease to bother him.
  2. Severe whiplash injury. The symptoms of severe damage are shown instantly. The person feels a strong, sharp pain in neck, lower back, thoracic spine. The overall picture is compounded by the dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting. Risk of serious injury that traumatic energy absorbing cells, increasing their metabolism, resulting in a broken functions of the whole body, not just the injured area.
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Approach to diagnosis

Typically, a whiplash injury is diagnosed much later of its receipt.

This is because in the injury no visible damage to the neck, and symptoms may not occur in the posttraumatic period.

Severe vertigo and pain begin to bother the patient 2-3 weeks after the injury.

Diagnosis includes several studies:

  • x-ray is a compulsory investigation that determines the presence of the spasm in the cervical muscle group;
  • MRI and CT scan – determine whether there are torn ligaments, damaged cartilage, revealed hemarthrosis;
  • electroneuromyography investigated the nerve roots, is determined by the degree of damage.

What is the point of therapy?

Treatment of whiplash neck involves conservative methods.

In rare, severe cases, when there is danger of compression of the spinal cord or in open fractures of the spine can be appointed surgery.

Treatment injury is aimed at:

  • the exception of pain;
  • the achievement of normal motor function in the cervical spine;
  • rehabilitation;
  • preventing the occurrence of chronic diseases.

The method of treatment includes the following activities:

  1. The first orthopedic aid is for fixing the neck in a stationary state necessary to consolidate it with a special orthopedic collar. Wearing it is a preventative and should not last more than 3 days.
  2. Medications used anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs, whose action is directed at relief of pain, reduction of oedema, reduced sensitivity of nerve endings. During the acute phase can be assigned to narcotic analgesics, which reduce pain and inflammation.
  3. Physical therapy and manual therapy – physical therapy strengthens the muscle layer of the neck, helps to develop the habit of correct posture that will not lead to overload of the shoulder girdle and joints of the neck. Manual therapy is possible only when no fractures.
  4. Psychotherapy sessions with a psychotherapist is aimed at elimination or prevention posthistoire syndrome, suggestion patient confidence in his normal capacity and recovery, as well as learning methods of relaxation that can relieve tension in the muscles of the cervical.
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Traditional methods

In solving problems arising in the treatment of whiplash effective sessions of osteopathy.

The thing is that this injury takes its toll for the whole human body after the elimination of the pain symptoms are often detected various kinds of spinal curvature, poor mobility of the skull bones, the displacement of the vertebrae.

During treatment sessions, doctors-osteopaths warm up and stretch the muscles, relieve spasms and tension with gentle movements of the right organs and tissues.

Dangerous consequences and complications

A whiplash neck injury can carry a number of serious consequences and complications.

The lack of timely treatment can lead to fibrosis, a process that irreversibly leads to the ossification of the muscles and ligaments.

Disturbances in the ligaments muscles influence all the adjacent organs, resulting in unpredictable consequences.

Complications can manifest as problems in the gastrointestinal tract, the urogenital system, pain in the pelvic region, etc.

And when the treatment will be aimed at addressing the focal issues, such as digestive dysfunction, while the real cause of the complications will be not revealed.


According to the statistics:

  • 60% of victims forget about the whiplash injury in the first six months;
  • 32% — getting rid of the symptoms in the second year after injury;
  • and only 8% develop posthistory syndrome.

Most often, chronic effects become after severe accidents 3 or 4 degrees. They are manifested in the restriction of movement in the shoulder region, numbness of the hands, impaired vision.

Along with disorders of the musculoskeletal functions can be observed neurotic and mental disorders.

Rehabilitation activities

Full recovery from whiplash injuries is a complex of various procedures:

  • psychotherapy;
  • therapeutic exercises;
  • swimming (not earlier than 3 months after injury);
  • breathing exercises;
  • physiotherapy.

Rehabilitation takes place under the supervision of a physician, who promptly changes the appointment depending on their performance.

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Preventive measures

Prevention of injuries can be attributed to the measures of preventing it. Of course, it is difficult to envisage the possibility of a collision or fall, or the fact that someone might strike.

But, for example, if you have to travel by car you can learn how to behave so that the consequences of road accidents was minimal:

  1. Be sure to wear your seat belts, ignoring this rule can result in severe traumatic brain injury, and even death.
  2. Check whether you are sitting in the car seat – between the bottom of the steering wheel and the belly needs to fit the fist, the upper edge of the head restraint should be level with the middle of the back, and if you stretch back in the seat, the arms should be extended.
  3. Sit just right, it will help prevent whiplash injury, but spinal fractures in case of strong impact.

To minimize the consequences of any injuries, should immediately contact the ambulance. In severe injuries should remain stationary.

The consequences of whiplash injury is unpredictable. They can withdraw in mild cases, but it is possible that the symptoms will remain with the victim for life.

Once received trauma may increase the vulnerability of the cervical spine for life and cause the development of other serious diseases, such as arthrosis of the intervertebral joints.

To reduce the risk of whiplash injury may only qualitative diagnosis, so do not neglect the examination, even if symptoms are not too worried or not available.