Neck strain is often referred to as whiplash. Whiplash is a serious neck injury that develops when your head is forcefully thrown backward and forward, damaging various structures within the neck, including the bones, ligaments, muscles and other tissues. The sudden force stretches and tears your neck’s muscles and tendons.
Causes of Whiplash
Whiplash can occur whenever the muscles and ligaments in your neck are strained due to an aggressive back-and-forth movement. It is most commonly associated with auto accidents however that is not the only cause. This injury is most likely to occur in the following circumstances:
- Sports Injuries: Many athletes sustain whiplash injuries while playing sports, usually after a collision or tackle. This injury is especially common in sports like football, karate, and boxing.
- Auto Accidents: Auto accidents are an extremely common cause of whiplash. Those most at risk are involved in collisions in which a stopped motor vehicle is struck from behind.
- Physical Assault: A whiplash injury can also occur during a violent physical assault. Sustaining a punch to the face or being shaken can seriously injure the neck in some cases.
- Other: Any activity with intense acceleration-deceleration can cause whiplash. For example, bungee jumping and roller-coasters.
Symptoms of Whiplash
If you sustain a whiplash injury, symptoms will begin to appear within 24 hours and may last for a few days to several months. Sometimes the pain is immediate and other times it takes several hours for you to start experiencing whiplash symptoms. In most cases, you will experience:
- Neck pain that worsens with movement
- Pain in the shoulder, upper back and/or arms
- Decreased range of motion
- Blurred vision
- Headaches, typically at the base of your skull radiating towards your forehead
In some cases, the cause of your whiplash pain can even cause a concussion. The reality is that the damage following a whiplash injury can be extensive. If the ligaments were simply stretched too far or the joint itself is damaged, the neck may not be able to heal on its own, resulting in chronic pain and long-lasting symptoms. When conservative efforts like physical therapy, massage and medications fail, your physician may recommend ultrasound guided trigger point injections into painful muscles to reduce spasm. Trigger point injection options include homeopathic Traumeel, Botox, Ozone, or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to stimulate the healing process.