After one of our famed New Jersey ice storms, at Coastal Spine we often see a rash of neck injuries as people slip and fall on the sidewalk or get in accidents on roads that have morphed into ice rinks.
The most well-known neck injury is whiplash, which takes its name from the whip. The movement right before a whip snaps is the thing to visualize. That rapid swaying of your neck backward and then forward or vice versa is the movement that occurs in whiplash.
Basically, whiplash is the term for pain and stiffness in the neck after an injury that has caused the neck to move suddenly or beyond its normal range of motion. When whiplash occurs the head is suddenly forced backward or forward and is then instantly snapped in the other direction. At Coastal Spine, we diagnose and treat whiplash and relieve the pain that accompanies it.
What causes whiplash?
The rapid movement from one direction and then violently in the opposite direction can happen from a variety of causes. Most often, car crashes are the cause of whiplash. This is especially true when the driver or passenger didn’t see the crash coming and wasn’t braced for it. This kind of action often happens when a car is rear ended, as the neck snaps either forward or backward.
Otherwise, a person can get whiplash from a fall, say slipping on your front sidewalk stairs when freezing rain followed yesterday’s snowstorm. It can occur from sport injuries, such as a blindside hit in a football game. A rough roller coaster ride where the rider didn’t have his or her head braced against the headrest can cause whiplash. Or it can happen when a person, usually a baby, is roughly shaken. Whiplash is often a part of shaken baby syndrome.
Women are more likely than men to experience whiplash. It’s thought that this is because men’s neck muscles and the muscles in the shoulders are generally stronger, limiting the movement of the neck.
What are the symptoms?
Patients who have suffered whiplash usually develop symptoms within 24 hours of the injury. But it isn’t unusual for other symptoms to appear, or for symptoms to worsen, weeks after the original injury.
These are some of the physical injuries that may accompany whiplash:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Headaches, especially at the base of the skull
- Blurred vision
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears
Whiplash can also be accompanied by the following cognitive or emotional symptoms:
- Concentration difficulties
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression, anxiety, irritability
How we treat whiplash
At Coastal Spine, most of our whiplash patients recover within 4 to 6 weeks with the help of conservative treatments such as the application of ice and use of anti-inflammatory medications. Heating pads and hot showers can also provide some relief.
In more severe cases, we may use corticosteroid injections or have the patient wear a cervical collar for several hours during the day. This immobilizes the neck, allowing it to heal without the setbacks that come with movement. But we pay special attention to how long you’re using your collar, as it must be limited.
We may also use physical therapy, and a regimen of stretching once the neck pain is gone.
If you have any of the symptoms of whiplash, we need to see you at Coastal Spine. Call us at (856) 222-4444 to schedule your appointment.