What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is really a slang term for the rapid back and forth whipping of the head on the neck, usually associated with motor vehicle accidents. The title “Whiplash Associated Disorders”, or WAD, describes it best because it includes all of the many signs and symptoms of the disorder.

WAD basically comes in three sizes based on the degree of injury. A WAD I is present when there is pain but no physical examination findings; WAD II occurs when there are exam findings but no neurological loss (numbness or weakness); and WAD III includes loss of neurological function. There is also a separate WAD level that includes fractures and dislocations (WAD IV)

There are many things that can be done by the patient to assist in the healing process for WAD. The first well-studied recommendation is to “continue with your usual activities.” Try to keep active and not change your routine. The good news is that WAD (especially types I and II) usually resolves without complication, and recovery is even more likely to occur if you don’t deviate much from your routine.

How Do Injuries of Whiplash Occur?

Whiplash is a common injury, and most people can experience whiplash without actually knowing that they have it. This type of injury occurs when the neck muscles experience a strain caused by rapid back and forth jerking. This sudden movement leads to tearing and stretching of the ligaments and tendons in the neck, thus leading to whiplash.

There are many activities that can possibly cause whiplash. Some of the most common reasons for whiplash include:

  Motor vehicle accidents

  Physical fighting or abuse, shaking or punching

  Horseback riding

  Falls

  Contact sports, including karate, boxing, football, and more

  Any type of sudden blow to the head

Whiplash Symptoms

One of the reasons that most people live with whiplash unknowingly is that symptoms tend to take a day or several days before they appear. If you feel fine immediately after a minor car accident, that doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced whiplash; you simply aren’t feeling it yet. If left untreated, whiplash symptoms can last for several weeks to several months.

Some symptoms of whiplash include:

  Constant weariness

  Dizziness

  Stiffness and pain in the neck

  Blurred vision

  Headaches emanating from the skull base

  Irritability

  Ear ringing

  Chronic head, shoulder, and neck pain

  Trouble with sleeping

  Memory and concentration issues

Rarer symptoms of whiplash that could indicate a more serious condition include:

  Weakness and/or numbness of the arms

  Pain when turning the head from side-to-side

  Pain has slowly spread from the head to the shoulders and arms

  Issues involving the bowels or bladder

  Localized leg or arm weakness

How is Whiplash Treated?

Doctors can prescribe OTC medication such as aspirin or Tylenol, and more severe cases can involve physical therapy to ensure a full recovery. Chiropractic care is a great way to treat whiplash fully, guaranteeing that the patient experiences no lingering side effects or pain from the injury.