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Whiplash is the common name given to a soft tissue injury in the neck, such as the ligament or tendons. Your doctor may also otherwise use the more specific terms of cervical sprain or hyperextension injury.

Such cases of neck sprains occur mainly in motor vehicle accidents, or athletic activities. It comes about due to an accidental force externally applied onto your neck region. The body is usually unprepared for the sudden impact and hence the neck is forced into movements beyond its normal range of flexibility. Imagine yourself driving on the road, and a car hits you at a great speed from behind. This sudden impact rockets both you and your vehicle forward. Your shoulders and neck are quickly thrown ahead towards your steering wheel. As you jam the brakes to stop, the forward inertia is forcibly pushed backwards. Your shoulders and neck are now shoved back into the driverís seat. In such scenarios, individuals often experience too much stress for the neck and shoulders, resulting in strains of the soft tissues. Often, these strains are acute and may heal over a relatively short period of time. However, some conditions may aggravate and develop chronic effects, which might eventually lead to disability.

Usually, within the first 48 hours after the accident, the individual would have experience one or more symptoms of whiplash. Some of these symptoms include a sore and stiff neck, headaches and dizziness. Other symptoms such as ringing in the ears or blurred vision may also be present. There have also been cases where patients complain of pain in their lower backs, numbness in the arms or shoulders, feel highly irritated and have difficulty remembering things. These may be due to the extent of the damage, and which soft tissues have been injured. Diagnosis for whiplash is not an easy job, as the type of injuries sustained can be difficult to ascertain. Injuries to the soft tissues, such as muscles and ligaments, cannot be seen on standard X-rays. In such cases, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be required. Likewise, treatment for neck strains is equally varied, and has also undergone dramatic changes. Conventionally, doctors would restrain and restrict patient movement with regards to neck injuries, with a cervical collar. Currently, many physical therapists are encouraging movement, as opposed to immobility. Cold packs, such as cooling wraps, can be applied on the neck to reduce swelling and allow the pain to subside. Avoid using ice cubes directly on the naked skin, as the raw chill may bite, and extra precautions need to be taken, as the neck and spinal cord are fragile yet crucial body components. Cooling wraps can act as a guard, allowing the patient neck movements within a safe range. If you are recuperating at home, or continuing with work, cooling wraps are convenient to put on and ease some of that swell and pain. However, do bear in mind that neck and spinal cord injuries may entail severe health complications. If you do not see improvements in your condition, do not refrain from going for a doctorís evaluation.
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