CAUSES OF WHIPLASH
Neck injuries typically occur when someone’s head is uncontrollably and instantly thrust backward and then forward. This motion can injure bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck. This type of injury is a common result from auto accidents. Rear-end collisions are the most common cause of neck injuries.
The word is a term describing a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck associated with extension, although the exact injury mechanisms can be varied. “Cervical acceleration–deceleration” (CAD) describes the mechanism of the injury, while the term “whiplash associated disorders” (WAD) describes the subsequent injuries and symptoms.
Symptoms of neck injuries usually develop within 24 hours and may include: neck pain & stiffness, increasing pain with neck movement, headaches starting at the base of the skull, fatigue, dizziness, pain in upper back or arms and loss of range of motion in the neck.
A neck injury may not cause symptoms immediately. Although most people who experience neck injuries are able to recover within a few months, some continue to have pain for several months or years.
Whiplash is commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, usually when the vehicle has been hit in the rear; however, the injury can be sustained in many other ways, including head-banging, bungee jumping and falls. It is one of the most frequently claimed injuries on vehicle insurance policies in certain countries.
Before the invention of the car, whiplash injuries were called “railway spine” as they were noted mostly in connection with train collisions. The first case of severe neck pain arising from a train collision was documented circa 1919. The number of whiplash injuries has since risen sharply due to rear-end vehicle collisions.
Symptoms reported by affected people include: pain and aching to the neck and back, referred pain to the shoulders, sensory disturbance (such as pins and needles) to the arms and legs, and headaches. Symptoms can appear directly after the injury, but often are not felt until days afterwards. Usually confined to the spine. The most common areas of the spine affected are the neck and middle of the spine. “Neck” pain is very common between the shoulder and the neck.
The “missing link” may be towards or inside the shoulder and this would explain why neck therapy alone frequently does not give lasting relief. Cognitive symptoms following whiplash trauma, such as being easily distracted or irritated, seems to be common and possibly linked to a poorer prognosis.