Whiplash is a non-medical, colloquial term used to describe neck injuries, usually as the result of automobile accidents. Generally, the neck is extended, twisted, contorted, or suddenly jerked out of place, and this causes damage. The severity of a whiplash injury is dependent on the violence of the automobile accident, and injuries are typically not life-threatening; however, there have been instances of permanent damage to the spinal cord, and you should always wear seat belts, properly situate headrests, and fasten children into their car seats or booster seats.
Causes of Whiplash:
In an automobile accident, the forceful collision between the automobile and the other object quickly halts the vehicle, but the law of inertia states that objects in motion tend to remain in motion. So, the car comes to a stop almost immediately, but the bodies of the passengers continue to move until they are restrained by the seat belts. The body decelerates at a dangerous pace, and the whipping of the head, back and forth, causes a stretching or straining of the neck ligament, and, typically, the anterior longitudinal ligament is torn or strained in the collision, but the spine can be fractured as well. In some cases, victims can experience a psychological whiplash; researchers have observed patients complaining about whiplash despite the fact that their necks are completely healthy.
Symptoms of Whiplash:
Following the actual injury, several painful symptoms can occur that indicate that the victim has whiplash. These symptoms include neck pain, the swelling of the neck, difficulty moving the neck or the body, headaches, pain in the back and arms, and muscle spasms. If one experiences any or all of these symptoms, it is important to solicit the advice of a medical professional as soon as possible, or permanent damage could ensue. In serious automobile accidents, though, this is not a major concern because emergency medical services will place the victim upon a long, flat board, and they will place a cervical collar around his neck to prevent any movement; further movement can exacerbate the injury.
Treatment of Whiplash:
The treatment of whiplash is divided into two main components: professional treatment and home remediation. Doctors will typically prescribe certain procedures to heal the symptoms of the injury; if it is a serious injury he might advise the patient to wear a neck brace, ingest prescribed pain relievers, visit physical therapists, or return consistently for follow-up visits, and if the injury is less serious the doctor will simply send the victim home with advice as to how he should treat himself. Home remediation involves resting, icing the injury, massaging the neck, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.
Preventing Whiplash in Automobile Accidents:
Wearing the seat belt properly is the most important, and easiest, way to prevent whiplash. It is crucial that every single passenger wear a seat belt as he rides in the car, and with legislators mandating manufacturer-installed seat belts this should not be a problem. Additionally, the headrests in the car should be adjusted so that the center of the headrest is aligned with the tips of the ears; this ensures that the neck and spine are supported during an accident.