Whiplash - Treatments

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What was the treatment for your whiplash?

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What is the treatment for whiplash?

Treatment of whiplash depends on the wide variety of symptoms present. Unfortunately, most treatments of whiplash have not been well tested to determine their effectiveness.

The most important issue in the management of whiplash is optimal education of the patient about their injury. This includes information on the cause, potential treatments, and likely outcomes. Patients should understand that this is a real injury, but that nearly all patients have the ability to fully recover. Patients that do not receive this information are much more likely to develop the more chronic "whiplash associated disorder."

In the past, the initial treatment for whiplash was often a soft cervical collar for several weeks. The goal of the collar was intended to reduce the range of motion of the neck and to prevent any additional injuries. More recent studies have shown that this prolonged immobilization actually slows the healing process. If there is no evidence of abnormal spinal alignment, early range of motion is advised.

Patients involved in early range of motion exercises have been shown to have a more reliable and rapid improvement in their symptoms. This treatment typically involves rotational exercises performed 10 times per hour as soon as symptoms allow within the first four days of the accident.

It seems that excessive rest and immobilization have been shown to have greater chances of chronic symptoms. This is explained by loss of range of motion leading to increased pain and stiffness. Immobilization also causes muscle atrophy (muscle wasting), decreased blood flow to the injured soft tissues, and healing of damaged muscles in shortened position that renders them less flexible.

Physical therapy can be useful in helping to wean a patient from a cervical collar as well as to help strengthen muscles and reduce painful motions. Occupational therapy can be used to help return the patient to the work environment.

If the patient begins to develop psychological symptoms including anger, anxiety or depression following an injury, prompt treatment of the emotional condition is recommended. This can help the patient better understand the good chances for successful recovery and reduce the chances of chronic symptoms.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Gotur6, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: September 23

In 2013, after years of delaying it, I had a 3 level ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) of C3 to C7. Recovery took about 7 to 8 months. Two months later I started experiencing the same issues as before, but they'd be gone the next day. I told the doctor and he did an MRI that showed all was good. Three months later, I couldn't stand it anymore so I went back to see him. A CT scan showed a raging bone infection had dissolved 75 percent of the C5 vertebrae. The pain was from the screws in the plate wiggling around and hitting my spinal cord. Immediate surgery to remove all the hardware, 3 months on 5 IV antibiotics and another 3 months on heavy duty oral antibiotics before the all clear sign. I was in a Miami collar the whole time. Another 6 months went by before I was back to a close to normal routine. About a month later I was rear ended by a tractor trailer at about 40 mph. I had instant pain from the whiplash that grew worse as we waited for the highway patrol to finish the report. Now, almost 7 months later, still no improvement. I have spent the last 3 months in physical therapy twice weekly and though the no 'significant' changes show up on the x-ray or MRI, no one can tell me why my left arm is 2 1/2 inches smaller than it was a year ago. Nerve studies show irreparable nerve damage in my left arm and hand. I have severe headaches daily. I have numbness in my left ring and pinky finger as well as my left thumb. My hand will twitch for no good reason and the list goes on and on almost exactly like before. The surgeon told me today that at this point, the damage is likely permanent.

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Comment from: misty2957, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 15

I fell February 1st, tripped on a 4 inch cement pad. After I fell forward being disabled anyway I went to pull myself up on a lawn chair and was half way up and fell back. My neck got jerked forward and backward. I spent 3 days in the hospital and the pain was still getting worse no one told me I had whiplash until I went to see my pain doctor on March 11. It even hurts my neck and spine to cough. The only relief that I can seem to find is rest. He is going to try a procedure called Coolief, cervical cooled radiofrequency. I have had surgery on my cervical spine also.

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