Neck pain arising from out of damage to neck ligaments, tendons and muscles is called whiplash. Whiplash is a non-medical term. Whiplash injuries cover hyperextension injuries of the neck as well as cervical strains and sprains.
Whiplash may occur after sudden jerks the neck may experience during a vehicle accident, a fall, during a sport (especially those that involve forceful contact), repetitive strain or overuse of neck muscles, or any other situation where the neck is moved beyond its normal range of motion or jerked violently.
Whiplash symptoms could include any or a combination of:
• Pain in the neck
• Inflammation of neck muscles
• Difficulty in moving your neck
• Tenderness in the neck
• Pain arising from the affected neck are to the ends of the arms (1)
Diagnosis for the specific type of whiplash injury is always made first with a physical examination. This may be followed by an X-ray or CT (computerized tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) depending on the extent of injury the doctor assesses after the physical check up wherein s/he will examine for signs of neck tenderness, bruising, swelling, movement, muscle spasm, etc.
A range of motion test will be advised only if the injury is a minor one. Usually a CT scan or an MRI is recommened for severe cases of neck injury or where there is an involvement of the spine. (2)
Treatment for whiplash depends upon the type of injury incurred. Though there is no specific treatment, most of the management revolves around reducing pain, inflammation and movement to allow for comfort and healing of affected tissues and ligaments.
Painkillers such as Motrin and Aleve, along with topical gels for local application, are also given to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling. Physiotherapy involving heat and cold application, and mild massage aid in recovery. Recovery may take anything from a few weeks to up to three months. (3)