Whiplash is the informal term for a medical condition in which the neck muscles, ligaments, or vertebrae have been extended beyond their everyday range of motion, typically as the result of physical trauma from an accident or injury. For example, during a rear-end automobile motor vehicle accident in which a driver does not have time to brace for impact, the cervical (neck) region of the spinal column can be snapped forward and back in a motion similar to the crack of a whip. Hyperextension then occurs in the neck muscles and can also be accompanied by displacement of cervical vertebrae.
For minor strains, neurological injury may not be present, but the patient may experience straining of the muscles and ligaments. Initial rest followed by strengthening may be beneficial. Experts at strengthening include those who provide therapy (physical therapy) as well as chiropractic treatment with a chiropractor.
Normally, whiplash occurs as the result of automobile accidents, but may be caused by contact sports or deliberate physical abuse (such as being shaken or punched). Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headaches that radiate from the base of the skull, and neck pain or stiffness. Mild whiplash is typically treated with pain relievers and anti-inflammatories with no long-term complications. More severe whiplash may cause pain to radiate down to the shoulders and arms, or produce tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness in the arms. These injuries signal compression of the spinal nerves or spinal cord, which run the length of the spinal column while providing sensation to most of the body. Long-term loss of sensation may occur if these spinal nerves suffer substantial physical trauma.
If a patient’s whiplash induced neck pain levels are not addressed by over-the-counter pain medications, or if the neck pain has not subsided after a few days, immediate medical consultation is advised. Physicians will conduct a physical exam to test the patient’s mobility. Should the cervical region’s mobility be sufficiently compromised, imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans, or magnetic resonance imaging) may be necessary to gauge the extent of the damage as well as to evaluate possible courses of treatment.
In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to repair whiplash damaged vertebrae, ensure cervical stability, or relieve pressure on the spinal cord. As the cervical region is more delicate than other parts of the spine, post-operative care will often include very specific physical therapy designed to strengthen the muscles that support the neck. Stronger neck muscles will lower the incidence of future whiplash, in addition to helping the body more efficiently distribute the weight of the skull without causing long-term complications.
Strengthening of the neck can involve physical therapy or chiropractic treatment with a chiropractor. There are some differences and many similarities with the therapy provided by physical therapy and the chiropractic treatment provided by a chiropractor. Ultimately, strong muscles in the neck help to reduce the risk of whiplash and neck injury in the future. Health of the muscles in important for neck and back health.
The Kraus Back and Neck Institute in Houston, TX, serves patients in the Houston and surrounding areas, including Katy, the Woodlands, Spring, Humble, Kingwood, Sugarland, Pearland, Atascocita, Friendswood, Memorial City, Galleria, Bryan, College Station, Baytown, Beaumont and Port Arthur. In addition, accommodations can be made for patients from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.
The Kraus Back and Neck Institute (KBNI)has significant experience with patients suffering injury or trauma to the neck and back. This may have been from a motor vehicle accident or other injury. The KBNI has found that, after treating thousands of patients, most can be treated and have their neck pain and symptoms improved without the need of an operation. When surgery on the spine is needed, they offer the most advanced techniques in minimally invasive spine surgery.
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Keywords: whiplash, physical therapy, therapy, chiropractor, chiropractic, Houston, Katy, Woodlands, Sugarland