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What is whiplash injury?

Dr Hélène Huot
Doctor

Whiplash is defined as an injury to one or more ligaments in the neck. It can have varying degrees of severity, including stretching and partial or complete tearing. Also known as neck sprain or neck strain, this type of injury occurs when the joint twists beyond its normal range of motion and usually results from a sudden movement.

Causes

Whiplash injuries are often caused by car accidents, especially when the impact is from behind. Indeed, the shock produced by this type of impact inevitably leads to hyperextension of the neck, and therefore the risk of ligament damage is higher.

A number of other causes can explain whiplash, including age, physical inactivity, neck fragility and family history of neck injuries. People who perform certain repetitive movements that put heavy stress on the neck may also be at risk for this condition.

Symptoms

The main symptom of a whiplash injury is localized pain in the neck muscles. Sometimes, this pain spreads to the upper back or arms, causing much greater discomfort. Headaches are also very common in people suffering from this injury.

Most of the time, these symptoms occur immediately after the injury, but in some cases, they may appear only a few days later. The person will feel some stiffness in the neck at the time, but no spreading pain. A person who does not feel any symptoms runs the risk of worsening the situation by resuming their activities too quickly.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose a whiplash injury, the doctor will first do a physical assessment and ask the patient questions about the pain. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may request an X-ray or a CT scan. Depending on the results, the doctor will ask the patient to limit their physical activities for a certain time, and may refer them to a specialist such as a physiotherapist.

Imagix clinics are equipped with state-of-the-art imaging equipment that can help doctors diagnose a whiplash injury and determine the right treatment.

If you have any questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to call our customer service number at 1 800 463-7674.