Whiplash injuries are considered to be “the most common non hospitalized injury resulting from a road traffic crash”. Whiplash is a relatively common injury that is often ignored or mistreated due to lack of understanding of the condition. Sudden neck strain is often just called whiplash. Although it’s usually associated with car accidents, any impact or blow that causes the head to jerk forward or backward can cause neck strain. The sudden force stretches and tears the muscles and tendons in neck. Neck strains are often confused with neck sprains. They’re a bit different. Neck strains are caused by damage to the muscle or the tendons, bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Neck sprains are caused by tearing of the ligaments, the tissues that connect the bones to each other. The causes, symptoms, and treatment of neck sprains and neck strains are usually the same. People who play contact sports like football are especially prone to neck strain. Failure to properly educate and treat patients with whiplash can lead to chronic psycho social symptoms including depression and anxiety.
Whiplash is most commonly caused by a motor vehicle accident in which the person is in a car that is not moving, and is struck by another vehicle from behind. It is commonly thought the rear impact causes the head and neck to be forced into hyperextended (backward) position as the seat pushes the person’s torso forward – and the unrestrained head and neck fall backwards. After a short delay the head and neck then recover and are thrown into a hyperflexed (forward) position. More recent studies have determined that after the rear impact the lower cervical vertebrae are forced into a position of hyperextension while the upper cervical vertebrae are in a hyperflexed position. It is thought that this abnormal motion causes damage to the soft tissues that hold the cervical vertebrae together (ligaments, facet capsules, muscles).
Types of whiplash injury
Type 1: A mild case, which starts with a delay of symptoms by hours or to the next day, limited to pain in the neck without spasm, no loss of neck motion, minor radiating symptoms, and no localized tenderness. Full recovery is often in days to weeks. Going off work is not required.
Type 2: A moderate case, starts with instant pain, neck spasms, loss of neck motion, and moderate to severe radiating pain, but without physical evidence of a pinched nerve. Recovery may take weeks to months and is sometimes not complete.
Type 3: A severe case, like type 2 but maybe worse. Here we also have evidence of a pinched nerve. Recovery is like type 2.