Whiplash pain can be debilitating. Most people who experience whiplash will recover within a few months. However, some people continue to have pain for several months or years after the injury occurred. It is difficult to predict the outcome, but in general, chronic pain may be more likely when the initial symptoms include rapid onset of pain, severe neck pain, headaches and pain that radiates to the arms.
Whiplash is the most common form of motor vehicle injury. It can also be caused by falls, trauma or other sports-related accidents. This type of injury happens when the neck is forced outside of the normal range of motion, and can cause significant injury to muscles, ligaments, discs and facet joints in the neck. For some, this pain can last for years following an accident. Common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, swelling along the back of the neck, difficulty turning the head and muscle spasms.
A doctor will collect a medical history and perform a physical exam to rule out more serious causes of pain. The physician may also order imaging to determine the extent of the damage in the area.
Depending on the underlying cause of the pain, possible treatment options include physical therapy and procedures such as trigger point injections, medial branch blocks, medial branch radiofrequencies and facet injections. Medications that may be used in treating whiplash include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-depressants, neuropathic medications or short-term opiate painkillers.