Neck strain is an injury to the soft tissues of the neck. Whiplash is a certain type of neck strain that happens when the head jerks violently back and forth. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as participation in contact sports or a blow to the head with a heavy object. However, whiplash occurs so often due to car accidents that there is a strong association between the two. Whiplash is particularly likely with a rear-end collision.
Symptoms of Whiplash
In addition to stiffness and pain in the neck, common symptoms of whiplash include fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, and headaches at the base of the skull specifically. If symptoms spread to your arms, or you experience weakness or numbness of the upper extremity, you should see a doctor right away.
Symptoms of whiplash do not necessarily appear immediately after the injury. You usually start experiencing symptoms within 24 hours, but sometimes they don’t develop for a couple of days. It can take several weeks for whiplash pain to subside, and some people experience chronic symptoms.
Varieties of Injury
Whiplash puts a strain of soft tissues in the neck, especially muscles and tendons, which are the tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. As your neck jerks violently back and forth, it puts pressure on these soft tissues, stretching them out and sometimes causing them to tear. The damage to the soft tissue that results from the trauma causes whiplash pain.
There are other tissues in the neck that may be damaged by the same mechanism. Ligaments are the soft tissues in the neck that connect the bones of the spine to one another. Stretching and tearing of the ligaments causes a similar injury called a sprain. People may confuse strains and sprains because they sound similar and cause comparable symptoms. In the case of whiplash, the cause is the same. Therefore, a person could reasonably use the term “whiplash” to refer to a sprain of the neck as well as a strain.
Intervertebral disks are another type of soft tissue found in the spine. They serve to cushion the vertebrae, i.e., the bones of the neck and back. A whiplash injury can cause damage to the outer layer of the disks, which can allow the inner layer to leak out and put pressure on the nerves.
A good chiropractor will perform an examination of your neck with x-rays to determine whether your injury involves the vertebrae or merely the soft tissue. Contact a chiropractor, like from AmeriWell Clinics, to set up an appointment.