Diagram of the Cervical Spine (neck) showing normal anatomy
Diagram of the Cervical Spine (neck) showing normal anatomy

The term 'whiplash' describes a sprain of the neck causing pain. Usually this is due to a car accident, where the neck is suddenly stretched backwards as the rest of the body is forced forward. The sudden change in position strains the ligaments and muscles supporting the neck, and occasionally also causes damage to the vertebra and discs.

There are a number of symptoms of whiplash, the commonest being neck pain and stiffness, and headaches. Symptoms usually set in several hours after the initial injury. While whiplash does sometimes develop into chronic neck pain, most people see their symptoms diminish gradually over the months following the initial injury.

Whiplash can be very distressing - pain can be severe and may be complicated by numerous other symptoms. In addition, recovery is slow with residual symptoms persisting for some time. Despite this, it is important that you remain optimistic and as active as possible while caring for your neck, as the majority of whiplash sufferers recover within 12 months.

4 November, 2012