Whiplash is a neck injury that commonly occurs in conjunction with a concussion. There is no hard-and-fast rule on the force required to cause a concussion but many biomechanical studies seem to feel that a concussion occurs with forces about the head of above 80g. Similarly, in the classic “rear-end” motor vehicle accident, it has been shown that only a 12g force (corresponding to an impact speed of 32 km/h) is required to cause whiplash.
Many of us had mild, intermittent and/or chronic neck issues that we either neglected and/or struggled with prior to our concussions. Unfortunately, often, the injury exploits this susceptibility. Patients can often feel that their neck problems resulted from the concussive accident but in fact, it is often a case of the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’; that is, often the concussive injury also applied enough force to an already overloaded neck triggering more troublesome and/or seemingly new symptoms.
To treat neck injuries effectively, a thorough history and physical exam is required to arrive at the appropriate diagnosis. The diagnosis often identifies a faulty biomechanical habit that we have inadvertently picked up over the years because of deconditioning and/or poor ergonomics in addition to identifying the specific tissues that have been most recently injured.
Treatment options are aimed at improving one’s ability to hold one’s neck in the ideal posture at all times – while sitting, standing, walking, lying down and doing your daily activities. For some of us this will come naturally while for others it will feel awkward and will require persistent effort to consciously reprogram our faulty habits and replace them with biomechanically correct ones.
Permission to use copyrighted image granted by Dr. Dalton, ©erikdalton.com
Specific recommendations will vary but can include:
1. An ergonomic assessment and possibly changing unideal equipment/setups
2. Change of activities and/or exercise program
3. Medication to reduce pain and/or inflammation
4. Rehab services: massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathic and/or physiotherapy
5. Psychological counselling
6. Treating other injuries that may influence your neck’s recovery:
a. Musculoskeletal injuries or biomechanical abnormalities that resulted from the injury or were grumbling on before
b. Problems with other issues like headaches, visual disturbances, balance difficulty, etc.