Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when the head suddenly moves backward and then forward with great force, e.g. following a rear-end collision.

Overview

Whiplash occurs when the head suddenly moves backward and then forward with great force, e.g. following a rear-end collision. Too much energy is transferred to the neck, which after a time can lead to complaints such as headaches or pain in the neck, shoulders or arms. The proper positioning of the headrest in the car can reduce the effects of a collision.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

The symptoms can come and go or be constant, and sometimes get worse with movement. They can radiate into the back of the head, the shoulders or the arms. In addition, symptoms may only appear after a few hours or days.

Other symptoms

  • Poor shoulder and neck posture to compensate for the pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, shoulders, arms or hands
  • Non-specific symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), reduced concentration, fatigue and sleep disorders .

Causes and treatment

Causes and treatment

Whiplash is an imprecise term. Usually it refers to the hyperextension of the cervical spine beyond its normal range of motion that occurs when the head moves forward suddenly. This is most often caused by a rear-end collision (two cars), but can also be caused by front-end and side collisions. The impact is worse if the movement of the head is not stopped, e.g. by a headrest.

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Examination of head, cervical spine and shoulders for injuries
  • X-ray
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the cervical spine
  • Ultrasound (sonography) of the neck arteries and veins

Many different tests can be done for whiplash, but these often don't return clear-cut results.

Possible therapies
  • Painkillers
  • Resting the body for a short time, and in exceptional cases, wearing a neck brace
  • Physiotherapy
  • Alternative methods such as acupuncture, osteopathy, etc.

The options for therapy are very diverse, and each case must be investigated individually.

What can I do myself?

  • Cool the neck and throat area after the accident
  • Avoid sitting for prolonged periods and don't engage in strenuous activities for the first three to four days after the accident
  • Once the symptoms improve, take up your usual daily activities again as soon as possible
  • Continue to do physiotherapy exercises at home

Prevention

A properly positioned headrest in the car reduces the risk of whiplash. Positioning tips:

  • Height: The upper edge of the headrest should be at crown height
  • Distance: The back of the head should be as close as possible to the headrest (max. distance of 7cm)

When to see a doctor?

A doctor should always conduct a medical examination after an accident. This also applies to symptoms that occur later. In particular, it applies to:

  • Tension/pain in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, shoulders, arms or hands
  • Nausea and vomiting

Further information

SUVA - Swiss Accident Insurance Fund
www.suva.ch
-> Document about what to do after suffering whiplash www.touche.ch

Synonyms

whiplash, sprain of cervical spine, CS sprain, post-traumatic cervical syndrome, whiplash injury, cervical spine sprain

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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