WHIPLASH (Acceleration-Deceleration Cervical Injury)
(Acceleration-Deceleration Cervical Injury)
Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused when it is whipped backward forcefully -- usually in an accident. The muscles, tendons, disks, and nerves in the neck are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Diathermy or ultrasound treatments (See Glossary).
Surgery to remove an injured spinal disk (rare).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSPain or stiffness in the front and back of your child's neck--either immediately following or up to 24 hours after injury.
Nausea and vomiting (sometimes).
Injury, usually from contact sports or motor-vehicle accidents.
RISK FACTORSOsteoarthritis of the spine.
Situations your child might be in that make accidents more likely, such as:
-- Driving in rainy, icy or snowy weather.
-- "Tail-gaiting" or other poor driving habits.
-- Driving after excess alcohol consumption or use of mind-altering drugs.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEDriving instructions for your child:
Use the padded headrests in your auto. These have decreased the frequency and severity of auto whiplash injuries.
Drive carefully and defensively.
Don't drink or use mind-altering drugs and drive.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
X-rays of the neck.
Myelograms (See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSTemporary numbness and weakness in your child's arms, if nerve roots are injured. This may persist until recovery.
Usually curable in 1 week to 3 months with treatment.
HOME CAREInstructions for your child:
Apply ice packs to the injured area for 10 to 20 minutes each hour during the first 24 hours.
After 24 hours, use ice packs or heat to relieve pain. Heat may include hot showers twice a day, in which the water beats on your neck and shoulders for 10 to 20 minutes. Between showers, apply hot soaks to the neck, or use a heat lamp several times a day for 10 to 15 minutes.
Try to improve your posture. Pull in your chin and abdomen when sitting or standing. Sit in a firm chair and force your buttocks to touch the chair's back.
If the symptoms are severe, buy and wear a soft padded fabric collar (Thomas collar) until the pain subsides.
Sleep without a pillow. Instead roll a small towel to 2 inches in diameter, or use a cervical pillow or a Thomas collar. Poor sleeping positions delay healing.
If you have nerve-root pressure, with numbness and weakness in the hand or arm, buy or rent a cervical-traction apparatus. This can be hung over a doorway. Ask your doctor for specific instructions.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe pain relievers or muscle relaxants (sometimes).
Use non-prescription drugs, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, for your child's minor pain.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Depends on the severity of symptoms. During the acute or severe stage, your child should rest as much as possible. As symptoms improve, the child can resume normal activity gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has a painful neck injury.
Pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness develop in the child's arm or face.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.