Whiplash Neck Sprain

Whiplash occurs when an athlete is struck from behind during a contact sport. The physical force causes sudden flexion or extension of the neck, or both, and the head is rapidly thrown both forward and backward. During the short duration of this motion, soft tissues of the neck such as discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, nerve roots, and intervertebral joints may be injured. The injured athlete may not feel any symptoms immediately after the accident, but they may follow soon.

According to the current understanding, the hip and trunk are the first body segments and joints to experience movement during whiplash. Forward motion in these structures is accompanied by upward motion, which acts to compress the cervical spine. This combined motion causes the head to revolve backward into extension, producing tension where the lower cervical segments extend and the upper cervical segments flex. With this rotation of the cervical vertebrae, the anterior structures of the cervical segments are separated, and posterior components, including facet joints, are severely compressed.

Whiplash symptoms may include pain and stiffness in the neck, in the shoulder, or between the shoulder blades, as well as loss of mobility of these joints. The patient may also experience ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, irritability, and fatigue.

Dry needling acupuncture is very helpful in treating whiplash symptoms. The treatment protocol is the same as for cervical nerve stretch syndrome. Again, both specific and nonspecific treatments are needed. Local and systemic treatments are equally important. The long-term prognosis for most whiplash injuries is good if proper care is received, although symptoms may persist and the neck may be prone to reinjury even many years later. To prevent this, long-term dry needling acupuncture is suggested as maintenance treatment even after complete recovery.

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