Dr. Nabil Ebraheim has treated many different injuries during his 30 years at The University of Toledo Medical Center. Dr. Nabil Ebraheim sees many patients that have been involved in motor vehicle accidents. Many of these patients present with whiplash.
Sudden acceleration and deceleration force causes unrestrained, rapid forward and backward movement of the head and neck. With a whiplash injury, there is injury to the soft tissues in the neck including ligaments, tendons, muscles, and discs. Whiplash is typically not a life threatening injury, but can lead to a prolonged period of partial disability. Whiplash is most frequently caused by motor vehicle accidents; but may occur due to sports activities. Women are more likely to experience whiplash because a woman’s neck is usually nor as strong as the neck of a man.
Most patients experience neck pain, tenderness and stiffness. Injuries to the muscles and ligaments result in muscle spasms. Most whiplash symptoms develop within 24 hours of the injury and may include the following: dizziness, fatigue, blurred vision, neck pain, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, problems sleeping, and irritability. When examining the patient, inspect the patient’s posture and neck. Palpate for areas of tenderness such as the cervical spinous processes, paraspinal muscles, and anterior soft tissues. The patient should demonstrate the range of cervical motion within pain tolerance. There should be a complete neurologic examination, and x-rays and MRIs may be needed.
Managing the pain should begin with immobilization of the neck with a soft cervical collar for 2 – 3 weeks. Wearing the soft cervical collar, especially at night, may help with the muscle spasms. Ice therapy and physical therapy can be helpful. Pain medication, muscle relaxants and neck massages can also help to manage the pain. If psychological symptoms develop, treatment of the condition is recommended.
If the pain and disability exceeds three months, then the condition tends to linger. The majority of patients will have mild pain that will disappear in a few days. About 50 % of patients will have remaining symptoms of some sort, especially residual neck pain and headaches.