About Physiatry

Cervical Whiplash

Condition: Cervical whiplash is an injury to the neck that occurs when the head is jerked forward and back very quickly.   

Background: Whiplash can cause injuries to the bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and joints in the neck. 

Risk Factors: Most whiplash injuries result from auto accidents. Falls, hard hits during contact sports such as football, and diving accidents also may cause whiplash.

History and Symptoms: Patients with whiplash injuries may have neck and upper back pain. Sometimes they also have headaches, dizziness, weakness, blurred vision, and trouble concentrating and remembering things. These symptoms may occur right away, or a few days after the injury. Most patients recover quickly, but sometimes pain and other symptoms can last for a year or more.

Physical Exam: The doctor will check to see if you have pain in your neck and upper back, and if you can move your head and neck normally.

Diagnostic Process: The doctor may do tests to see if you are having trouble thinking or seeing. X-rays may be done to make sure there is no more serious damage to the spine. Other imaging tests are usually only done if the symptoms do not go away or a more severe injury is suspected.

Rehab Management: Rehab will focus on helping you do the things you normally do. Rest, ice, and/or heat, along with pain medicines such as ibuprofen may help. Exercise may be recommended to keep the neck flexible. If symptoms last more than 1-2 weeks, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, or acupuncture may help.

Other Resources for Patients and Families: Families can help by getting patients to take part in physical activities and rehab programs.  


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