Whiplash, sometimes know as an acceleration/deceleration injury, refers to the injury of a number of soft tissue structures at the back of the neck. It occurs most commonly in road traffic accidents when a car is rear ended causing a violent thrust forward or backwards of the head on impact. Whiplash may also occur in contact sports.
Generally sufferers of whiplash experience little or no pain at the time of injury. Classically, the pain develops over the following week, gradually increasing in intensity. Pain is experienced in the neck and occasionally in the head and shoulders. Neck range of movement may be restricted due to the pain. Often whiplash patients describe pain on activities requiring their hands to be held out in front of them following their injury. Examples of such activities may include, pushing a pram, mowing the lawn or pushing a shopping trolley. Sustained sitting postures such as desk work and long drives also tend to aggravate the symptoms of whiplash.
Whiplash sufferers can experience pain for a prolonged period following the injury. Although mild-moderate cases of the condition would be expected to settle within a matter of weeks to months. More severe cases can lead to degeneration of neck discs and joint damage resulting in long-term mobility and pain problems.
In general the management of whiplash involves rest, physiotherapy, stretching and strengthening exercises. In some instances a soft collar may be worn by sufferers of the condition. In most instances patients make a full recovery.