This is a well-known term for an injury occurring to the neck due to acceleration with rapid deceleration. This can occur commonly with rear end and side car motor vehicle accidents. It is not isolated to car accidents, similar forces can occur during diving injuries or other sporting injuries, and physical abuse, which have sudden impacts that cause backward bending which can damage the tissues of the neck.
The correct term for this injury of the neck is Whiplash Association Disorder (WAD) and it is classified from Grade 1-4 depending on the symptoms that you develop.
The symptoms range from:
1. Neck pain, possible arm pain and stiffness that can limit your ability to function fully.
2. Jaw tightness and pain.
3. Loss of range of motion of the neck so it becomes difficult to turn head to reverse the car or neck movements causing sharp pain.
4. Tingling and or numbness and or weakness in the arms, oversensitivity to cold like wind or cold water, oversensitivity to light touch.
5.Headaches often located at the back of the skull area, top of the neck and can also be felt in the front of head and behind the eyes.
6. tenderness to the touch and or pain in the shoulder, upper back, chest and arm region.
7. Dizziness especially often associated with neck movement.
Less Common Symptoms:
1. Difficulties sleeping, often related to not being able to get into a comfortable position and pain levels at night. This also leads to fatigue and mood changes. Irritability can also creep in.
2. Visual disturbances like blurring which can make those suffering from this uncomfortable to drive safely or work with a computer easily.
3. Ringing in the ears seems unusual but can relate to the disruption and injury to tissues of the neck and base of the skull.
4. Pain levels can impact their ability to concentrate and can impact memory.
5. Some patients can develop post traumatic stress disorder or depression.
The dynamics and forces of car accidents or other impacts can at times cause the muscles, ligaments, fascia’s, capsules of joints, nerves and arteries to stretch beyond their normal range. Being over stretched in that manner can cause small or large tears, swelling, hematoma (rare) which is bleeding in the tissues.
It is difficult to image the trauma that is caused in the tissues however X rays can rule out major fractures and dislocations, and MRIs show more clearly soft tissues damage like the intervertebral discs, nerves, muscles and ligaments and instability etc.