Commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, whiplash refers to neck strain often aggravated by muscle and tendon tears. If only minor muscle strain is involved, discomfort often goes away on its own. Whiplash syndrome is a combination of symptoms resulting in recurring, or chronic, pain persisting beyond 6 months following the initial injury.
Identifying Whiplash Syndrome
Symptoms associated with whiplash syndrome may not be entirely radicular, radiating pain traveling to other parts of the body, or myelopathic, pain from damage to the spinal cord itself. According to Beverly Hills spine surgeons, pain sometimes extends beyond the neck to include shoulder and upper arm pain due, in part, to nerve compression along with a general weakness in the upper exterminates. In some cases, injury to the spine is only part of the problem, with some patients experiencing pain due to nerve compression elsewhere. Symptoms associated with whiplash syndrome may include:
• Neck spasms
• Jaw pain
• Shoulder pain and instability
• Recurring headaches
Treating Whiplash Syndrome
Treatment for whiplash syndrome often starts with diagnostic efforts to determine the extent of the damage from the initial injury to the neck area. A neck brace or collar may be recommended to maintain stability to facilitate healing. It may not become clear that there are other sources of pain until the initial neck pain is treated. If the problem is not relegated to the neck, treatment would include identifying additional pain sources and treating those specific areas. Treatment for chronic whiplash may also include:
• Anti-inflammatory medications
• Antidepressants and painkillers
• Physical therapy
• Chiropractic manipulation
Surgery for whiplash syndrome becomes a possibility for patients not responding to non-surgical treatments for at least 6-7 months. Even then, surgery only becomes an option if there is a clearly identified pain source. A lumbar laminectomy, for example, would be performed to relieve pressure on nerve roots or the spinal cord.
Whiplash can also be experienced due to sudden neck movements or while playing contact sports. While it’s not always possible to prevent this type of neck injury, precautions can include wearing protective gear, using a neck support pillow while driving, and strengthening of neck muscles through muscle manipulation or exercise.
If chronic neck pain is affecting your everyday life, it may be time to meet with an experienced spine physician in Beverly Hills. Reach out to The Spine Institute today by calling (310) 828-7757 and learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery and other treatments that can provide pain relief.