Whiplash (CAD Syndrome-Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration)

Neck strain is commonly referred to as whiplash, which occurs when a person’s head undergoes a sudden and forceful backward and forward movement. This abrupt force stretches and tears the muscles and tendons in the neck. Whiplash is most frequently associated with rear-end car collisions but can also result from sports injuries, physical abuse, or amusement park rides.

While whiplash is often considered a relatively mild condition, it can lead to long-term pain and discomfort. Symptoms may not manifest immediately, so it is important to pay attention to any physical changes for a few days following an accident.

Common causes of whiplash include:

  • Car accidents
  • Cycling accidents
  • Falls causing a violent jerk of the head backward
  • Physical abuse, such as being punched or shaken
  • Contact sports like football, boxing, and karate
  • Horseback riding
  • Blows to the head with a heavy object

In some cases, a blow that results in neck strain can also cause a concussion. Since concussions can be serious, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of whiplash may include:

  • Headaches, particularly at the base of the skull
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, or head

If you experience a worsening or persistent headache, weakness, difficulty speaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, or excessive sleepiness, it is advisable to seek emergency medical care.

When diagnosing whiplash, your doctor will typically inquire about the circumstances of your injury, such as how it occurred, the location of the pain, and its characteristics (dull, shooting, or sharp). A physical examination may be performed to assess your range of motion and identify areas of tenderness.

Imaging tests such as CT scans and/or MRI may be conducted to evaluate any damage or inflammation in the soft tissues, spinal cord, or nerves. Other imaging studies, such as PET scans (positron emission tomography) or DTI (diffuse tensor imaging), can be useful, particularly when there may be associated brain injuries.

Treatment options for whiplash may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol or aspirin
  • Prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy
  • Application of ice or heat
  • Simple exercises to strengthen and increase flexibility in the neck
  • Use of a foam collar to stabilize the neck
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Electronic nerve stimulation
  • Acupuncture

While some individuals with whiplash may experience chronic pain or headaches for years following the accident, the majority of people recover within a few days to several weeks, and long-term complications are rare.