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Whiplash is a very common injury that can affect anyone. Whiplash occurs most frequently during motor vehicle accidents and the car does not have to be traveling at a fast rate. There have been cases of whiplash in people driving at 5 miles per hour. When the body is struck from behind, the head bobs back and forth, causing a whiplash. This injury can cause damage to muscles in the neck, the ligaments, vertebrae, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. In some cases the pain goes away after a few months while in others it may become chronic, resulting in a disability.
Symptoms of a whiplash are:
In severe motor car accidents, whiplash can damage the spinal cord, resulting in neurological dysfunction or paralysis below the level of the injury. Compression injuries can affect the brain, causing hematomas - a serious condition in which blood gathers between the brain and the skull. Hematomas may give rise to loss of consciousness, confusion, double vision and loss of motor skills.
An X-ray is usually done to see if there is damage to the vertebral column, or an MRI to pick up any soft tissue injury. For the first twenty four hours ice should be applied to the neck to relieve pain. After that heat is beneficial. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and in some cases anti-depressants. Wearing a soft cervical collar is advised to relieve pain and prevent further injury, however this should only be worn for two to three weeks. Longer wearing could inhibit movement and decrease muscle strength. Some cases of whiplash do not require extensive medical treatment.
Getting patients moving as soon as possible has been proven to aid recovery. Therefore, physiotherapy is recommended. We will use ultrasound or electrical stimulation to relieve pain and get you started on range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Walking is also important during this time. We will also supervise functional activities to ensure that you perform these safely and return to your normal activity levels.
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