The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)

 

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is one of type of soft tissue injury that may result from a car accident. It is caused by the rapid acceleration (speeding up) and deceleration (slowing down) of the head and neck that occurs in a crash (like a whip). Scientists believe whiplash type injuries may be related to small rips in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. These small tears can become chronically inflamed after a whiplash injury. The inflammation causes spasm. The spasm in turn causes even more injury and more inflammation. This is called a “vicious cycle” and is thought to cause the long-term pain sometimes associated with a whiplash injury.

After a whiplash injury, most patients recover within a few weeks. Only a minority of patients have problems which last more than a month. Current research supports early and aggressive treatment. Beginning a stretching and exercise program almost immediately is helpful. Exercise and manual therapy (physical therapy and chiropractic) are also beneficial. A rapid return to physical activity can speed recovery. Medications are helpful in the acute phase. Some pain blocks can provide relief. Surgery is rarely needed for an uncomplicated whiplash injury. Prolonged bed rest, the use of cervical collars, and history of depression will worsen your prognosis. Patients with persistent symptoms after three months most frequently develop long-term, chronic pain.

In other words, even though common sense may say that you should rest if you have neck pain, whiplash sufferers seem to do best with careful exercise, stretching, and a rapid return to activity.

 

 






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Last modified: 07/27/08