Whiplash is the term used to describe the acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck which may occur in rear-end or side impact motor vehicle collisions.
These forces may result in painful injuries to the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck and other spinal areas. However, sometimes they result in no injury or pain at all. The joints and ligaments of the neck are covered by muscles. So the injury cannot be seen from the surface.
This can be frustrating when your neck is painful. Imagine a sprained ankle. Immediately following a sprain, the ankle becomes bruised, swollen and painful to move. A similar reaction can be expected from an injury to the small joints of the neck, it is just that you cannot see it.
It’s important to know that Whiplash is an injury from which most individuals recover well. Recent studies have shown that people who are positive about recovery and resume their normal daily activities as tolerated may recover faster than those who markedly alter or markedly reduce their activity level for a period.
The main symptoms of a whiplash associated disorder are neck pain and stiffness. Other symptoms such as headaches, aching in the arms or feelings of being lightheaded are not uncommon. It is also understandable that some people may feel distressed after the motor vehicle collision and these feelings usually settle with time and recovery. Symptoms may appear immediately after the incident or have a delayed onset of a few hours or days.
The nature of injury and the number and severity of symptoms vary between different people. Remember the sprained ankle. Some people can resume walking immediately after going over on their ankle; others cannot put the full weight on their foot for many days. Neck x-rays may be taken to rule out injuries such as bone fractures or dislocations. X-ray reports often state that no abnormality has been found. However, x-rays do not reveal injuries to the soft tissues of the neck and x-rays do not provide information about pain levels. Normal x-rays only provide assurance that there are no major bone injuries.
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