Doctor's Notes on Whiplash
Whiplash is a term used to describe neck pain due to an injury to the ligaments, tendons and/or muscles of the neck. Other medical terms for whiplash are cervical strain or sprain, flexion-extension neck injury and cervical hyperextension injury. Signs and symptoms include tenderness along the back and shoulders, neck swelling, neck muscle spasms, difficulty and/or pain when flexing, extending or rotating the head, headache, fatigue, sleep disturbances, jaw tightness, difficult chewing, vision disturbances and tinnitus.
The most frequent cause of whiplash is a car accident, even if you are wearing a seatbelt. Other causes are contact sports, assaults, blow to the head from a falling object, for example. Sudden strains from changes in direction (like roller coasters, bicycle accidents) or repetitive stress like holding a phone against your head can cause whiplash. Child abuse (shaking a child) may cause whiplash in children.
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Muscle StrainMuscle strain or muscle pull or even a muscle tear implies damage to a muscle or its attaching tendons. Symptoms and signs include swelling, bruising, pain, and weakness. Treatment may involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation in addition to taking anti-inflammatory medications.
Neck and Back InjuriesNeck and back injuries to the spinal cord are serious and could potentially cause permanent disability. Immediate care for a back injury include splinting and immobilization. Seek immediate medical treatment.
Neck Strain (Sprain)The portion of the spine contained within the neck is referred to as the cervical spine. That's the site for injuries known as neck strain. Symptoms include pain and possible numbness, dizziness, stiffness, and tingling. Treatment may involve taking NSAIDs, getting bed rest, and applying heat to the area.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.