Cervical acceleration/deceleration syndrome, also commonly referred to as whiplash, is a common neck injury caused by trauma to the head or neck. Whiplash results from the neck bending forcibly forward and backward in a quick jerking motion, beyond its normal range of motion.
Whiplash can be caused by any type of trauma to the head or neck. The head is jostled suddenly and is violently whipped back and forth, injuring the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the neck. The trauma can cause the cervical spine to become hyperextended. Swelling, bleeding and inflammation may also occur.
Commonly caused by motor vehicle accidents/rear-end collisions, whiplash can also be the result of assaults, activities such as riding a roller coaster, and contact sports like football and rugby. Symptoms of whiplash can occur immediately following the injury or even a few days later. Signs and symptoms of whiplash include neck pain or stiffness, increasing pain, headaches, dizziness, burning sensations in the neck, back or arms, fatigue, ringing in the ears, jaw pain, and difficulty with chewing or swallowing.
Because the injuries are sustained in the soft tissues of the body, they cannot be seen on standard X-rays. To adequately diagnose cases of whiplash, specialized imaging tests, such as computerized tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging, may be necessary to reveal damage sustained as a result of whiplash. Typical treatment options for whiplash include rest, ice or heat treatment, over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, muscle relaxants, injections, strength and stretching exercises, and physical therapy. Whiplash may also be treated with the use of a cervical collar to immobilize the neck while it heals.