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What is whiplash?

The whiplash is a frequent injury that occurs, especially in car accidents. It is also called cervical sprain or whisplash .

Neurologically it is included within the traumatic brain injuries, although the main affected region is the neck . Therefore, we will briefly explain the anatomy of this area.

Brief cervical anatomy

The human being has seven cervical vertebrae (from C1 to C7) . The most peculiar are the first two:

  • C1: it is the atlas. On it sits the occipital bone, appearing between these two structures the occipitoatloidea joint . It is this joint that we use when we turn our heads.
  • C2: is the axis. It is the structure that communicates the occipitoatloid joint with the rest of the neck.

Each vertebra has a hole in the middle where the spinal cord passes, and two holes on the sides, where nerves come out . These transmit the sensitivity of the upper extremities. All the vertebrae are joined behind by the so-called yellow ligament.

Whiplash production mechanism

What is whiplash?

In the case at hand, the injury appears by an indirect mechanism . This means that the aggressor object does not come into contact with the cranioencephalic region.

The most frequent cause of whiplash are traffic accidents . In addition, this injury is usually the result of subsequent collisions. The consequence is that the neck performs a strong flexion and subsequent extension. Thus, the sprain of the occipitoatloid joint occurs .

A sprain is the injury of the ligaments that are around a joint. We can say, then, that the whiplash is, ultimately, the injury of the yellow ligament around the occipitoatloid joint.

Symptoms of whiplash

What is whiplash?

Neck pain is the most frequent and obvious symptom. However, the neck is a zone of passage of multiple nerve structures, especially in its upper part. Thus, the specific functions of the nerves that are damaged in each case are also affected.

It may be the case that the nerves that convey the sensitivity of the upper extremities are injured. If this happens, cervical pain may radiate to the shoulders or arms. Also known as paresthesias, popularly known as “tingling,” which can also be experienced on the face.

The vestibulocochlear nerve, which also passes through the upper part of the neck, may also be affected . It is made up of two nerves that are born in the ear and then join:

  • Cochlear part: is responsible for conducting the sound.
  • Vestibular part: is responsible for balance.

Thus, the injury appear loss of balance, dizziness and tinnitus. Tinnitus, also called tinnitus, refers to the situation in which someone hears spontaneous noises. Tinnitus often occurs in the form of buzzing .

In addition to neck pain , headache appears. It is important to investigate the origin of this symptom, since it could be showing an encephalic lesion. However, more often it is secondary to the strong contraction of the neck muscles

On the other hand, in terms of symptoms related to the locomotor system, there is evidence of loss of mobility and strength.

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What is whiplash?

Depending on the severity of the whiplash, one treatment or another will be established. In the acute phase (initial) the following drugs are useful:

  • Anti-inflammatories: such as ibuprofen, naproxen, among others.
  • Muscle relaxants: like diazepam.

In the following phases , physiotherapy is very useful . Depending on the condition of each patient, they can be practiced from passive cervical mobilizations to electrotherapy.

The use of the collar is also widespread ; immobilizes it to prevent further damage and accelerate healing. However, it can increase complications (for example, atrophy of the cervical musculature due to disuse) or prolong the pain. Therefore, it is necessary to restrict its use only to the cases that require it, and for a short period of time.

What is whiplash?