Jul 24, 2014

Get the Facts on Whiplash

Simon Moyes discusses the number cases of whiplash is rising steadily, causing it to be the most common non-lethal injury suffered by victims of car crashes.

The number of cases of whiplash is rising steadily, causing it to be the most common non-lethal injury suffered by victims of car crashes.


As well as this there are around 400,000 claims made on insurance each year for whiplash injuries. Although one would automatically associate whiplash with car crashes, the injury can also be sustained from falls or accidents. The most common symptoms are stiffness in the neck and the back of the head, as well as headaches. Although less common, pins and needles or paraesthesia in the shoulders, arms and hands can also manifest themselves as symptoms.

The best course of action for dealing with whiplash would be to place an ice bag on the neck within the first 24 hours of receiving the injury. A bag of frozen peas would also do the trick. Painkillers can be taken, but if they fail to ease the pain the next course of action would be to consult a GP. A doctor would then reach a diagnosis based on a description of the symptoms and how the injury was sustained, as whiplash cannot be determined through an MRI scan, CT scan or X-rays.

Although there is some debate as to whether a patient suffering from whiplash should resume their normal life, or restrict movement and exercise, research has shown that those who rest for an extended period of time actually recover slower than patients who take part in gentle exercise and aim to follow a normal routine. Patients who are suffering from pain in the cervical region of the spine would be advised by a physiotherapist as to the best neck exercises to start immediately, and it would also be best for them to get out of bed within a few days.

Although recovery is usually uncomplicated and the chances for complete recovery are good, whiplash is a strain injury and the pain can therefore last for a couple of months.
When it comes to treating whiplash, there is no single solution and each doctor may prescribe what they think would work best in each situation.

However, if there is no suspicion of fracture or dislocation, a patient may resume their normal life, with occasional use of painkillers as needed. Those seeking further information on exercise and recovery would do best to seek out a chiropractor or physiotherapist who would be able to advise them on the topic.

Simon Moyes is an internationally renowned orthopaedic surgeon and leader in the field of arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery. His Capital Orthopaedics team works from The Cromwell Hospital in London, with its state-of-the-art diagnostic and surgical equipment, and top sports medicine professionals.

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