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Whiplash Injury

Pain in the neck, shoulders, head or the base of the skull that occurs after a motor vehicle accident is often called "Whiplash". Most people with whiplash Injuries recover in a few weeks or at most, a few months, but 15 to 20% of people develop chronic pain. Whiplash Injury is not a trivial problem, because once it has occurred, only 70% have recovered completely by one year and only 82% have recovered completely by two years. In addition to neck pain, there are many symptoms associated with the whiplash syndrome and include sleep problems, poor concentration and memory, blurry vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, and weakness.

The treatment for whiplash Injuries depends on the stage and degree of the problem and which structures have been injured. In addition to soft tissue injury, pain that persists after four to six months is usually due to injury to the facet joints, one or more discs, or both. The diagnosis can usually be made by injections, MRI, and X-rays. Treatment is usually successful, but requires physical therapy, injections, and occasionally surgery. The term, whiplash, is confusing because it is both a mechanism of injury and the symptoms caused by a car accident. It is due to a traumatic event that causes the head to move suddenly "whip" in one direction and then recoil in the other direction. The most common cause of whiplash is a motor vehicle accident in which one vehicle is struck from behind by another. However, it can occur when a car stops abruptly after striking a pole, a wall, or another car, and can also occur after a side impact. Significant damage to ligaments, discs, and joints can occur even if the swings of extension and flexion are not excessive, but often the neck is forced to the extreme ends of normal range or beyond. Because the trauma is usually sudden, occupants of the car are not prepared for the impact. The muscles are relaxed, which allows more forces on the discs, ligaments and joints. Perhaps the most important fact about whiplash injuries is that significant pain and structural damage can occur at crashes of low velocity.

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