Whiplash – Because of your neck’s wide range of motion, you put greater bending, twisting and turning demands on it than you do the rest of your spine. Yet your neck is the most delicate part of your spinal column. Even minor “whipping” of your cervical vertebrae can injure your neck muscles, ligaments and soft tissues. Get immediate medical help if you think you have a whiplash injury; quick response could prevent arthritis or disc problems years later.
Your Cervical Vertebrae
Your seven cervical vertebrae form a fragile bridge to your brain. The vertebrae are small and supported only by muscles and ligaments that must hold and balance a 10-pound head. Your neck is sensitive to stresses and strains and often reacts violently to what seems like a minor trauma.
The cervical vertebrae protect eight pairs of spinal nerves that are connected to almost all parts of your body. The top two cervical vertebrae are shaped differently from other vertebrae, allowing your head to pivot sideways.
In a whiplash injury, your neck is whipped backward and rebounds forward suddenly, as in a rear-end auto collision. You may not feel the damage for hours or even years.
Whiplash can cause:
* herniated discs
* spinal cord and * * nerve injuries
Signs of injury may include:
* shoulder, neck or arm pain
* visual disturbances
Be Kind to Your Neck
* Protect yourself from whiplash by having a properly placed headrest in your car.
* Keep the muscles of your neck strong and flexible with isometric exercise and slow range of motion movements.
When Your Neck Aches
* Use ice compresses and an anti-inflammatory medication to help relive the pain and reduce the inflammation.
* Ask your doctor to recommend gentle stretching exercises to rehabilitate and stabilize your muscles.