Whiplash injury is a common term for sudden acceleration-deceleration forced on the neck. This is usually as a result of rear-end or side impact motor vehicle accidents or any other mishaps. The acceleration-deceleration forces cause the head into forward flexion (head down position) and very quickly the head gets whipped back into extension (head in a looking up position).
When this occurs, the forces may result in bony or soft tissue injuries such as in the disc, ligaments, tendons, neck muscles and nerve roots.
There are several grades to the severity of whiplash associated disorders (WAD).
Grade 0: No pain or discomfort. No physical signs of injury.
Grade 1: Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness. No physical signs of injury.
Grade 2: Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness. Some physical signs of injury such as point of tenderness or trouble turning the head.
Grade 3: Pain, stiffness or tenderness and neurological signs of injury, such as changes to the reflexes or weakness in the arms
Grade 4: Pain and fracture or dislocation of the neck.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms after a whiplash injury are neck pain or stiffness. This can occur immediately after the injury or even after a few days. Also do note that whiplash can also occur at relatively low speed crashes.
Other symptoms may include
- Pain in the shoulders and arms
- Altered sensation, pins and needles, numbness in the arms
- Visual and auditory symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty in swallowing