The term ‘whiplash’ is used to describe a set of symptoms following injury to the soft tissues of the neck. It is popularly associated with auto accidents and sports injuries, but whiplash can be caused by any blow to the head that causes sudden movement of the neck that is not within the normal range.
Symptoms of whiplash include pain in the neck or along the back of the neck; muscle spasms; an inability to move the neck; swelling of the neck; headache; and pain that radiates from the neck down to the shoulders or arms. While symptoms may take time to develop following an injury, they may also present very quickly. The faster the onset of whiplash symptoms, the more serious the damage to the neck.
Whiplash has far-reaching consequences that can affect the health of the entire body for a significant amount of time. These might include the following long-term issues:
• Untreated whiplash can cause patients to experience neck pain for an extended period of time. This is known as chronic pain; it is a much more difficult condition to treat.
• Chronic pain from untreated whiplash may lead patients to the use of both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pain medications. Prescription painkillers are known for their addictive properties and can cause damage to the liver and kidneys. While OTC pain medications may seem innocuous, long-term use can result in gastrointestinal issues (ulcers, for example) and kidney damage.
• Whiplash can cause an abnormal curvature of the neck. The neck, when positioned optimally, comfortably supports the head and allows the spinal cord to remain soft to facilitate the flow of blood and nerves to the body. When the soft tissues of the neck are damaged and normal neck curvature is compromised, a host of health issues can result. Studies have even shown that abnormal neck curvature leads to shorter lifespan overall.