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How do you know if you have severe whiplash?

Cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD), more popularly known as whiplash, is a neck injury sustained from sudden backward and forward banging of the head.

Causes of Whiplash

The most common cause of whiplash is vehicular accident. Believe it or not, even the sluggish speed of 15 miles per hour can cause damage to the neck, even when the passengers are wearing seatbelts.

This can also be sustained from other activities such as bungee jumping, riding rollercoasters and diving. There are also reported cases where they got the injury from a blow or immediate force applied directly to the head (falling objects or fights). Also, several child abuse victims also developed whiplash, probably due to getting hit at the back of the head.

Mild Symptoms

Severe neck pain is the major manifestation of injuries sustained from the sudden movement of the neck. This is accompanied by pain and stiffness felt in the neck and shoulder area, extending to the arms and back.

Severe Whiplash — Symptoms and Management

The more sudden the head banging, the more bones, muscles, ligaments and other structures in the neck will be damaged. In cases where the symptoms do not resolve within months, patients tend to suffer additional complications or whiplash-associated disorders. These include the following:

  • stress,
  • anxiety leading to depression,
  • anger,
  • frustration,
  • insomnia or sleep disturbances,
  • drug dependency,
  • post-traumatic stress syndrome, and
  • social isolation

The severe pain and stiffness eventually prevent the person from going to work and performing his usual activities of daily living. There are fortunate ones who are able to resume with their normal activities after six months, however, only 30% of them are able to fully return to their functioning before the incident. This restriction in activities results to a lesser satisfaction in life which may be the reason for the psychological conditions that develop.

The aforementioned conditions are usually chronic and may require the attention of specialized medical professionals. Chronic pain induced by the injury precipitates stress and anxiety which eventually leads to depression. The said symptoms combined push a person to rely on medications for relief leading to dependency.

Treatment for Severe Symptoms

The management places a huge priority on pain management. Of course, pharmacologic treatment is central to pain control. The most common medications taken are Motrin or Aleve. Hot and cold compresses can also be used to alleviate the pain.

Physical therapy also plays a core role in the rehabilitation of the patients. In this case, the longer the neck is immobilized the higher chances of getting aches and stiffness. Immobilization might cause disuse syndrome, which leads to the atrophy (shrinking in size and function) of the unused muscles. The probability of circulation problems will also be affected.

Gentle traction or massage can be done to soothe the stained muscles in the area. Simple range-of-motion exercises, such as slow rotation of the head, can do wonders for a patient with whiplash injury. The movements should start slow and within the pain threshold of the patient and gradually increase until patient’s pain tolerance stretches. With constant therapy, a whiplash patient may still recover previous functioning and continue to live life with satisfaction.

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