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Every year, around 2 million Americans get whiplash, usually from a car accident.*
*Source: SpineUniverse.com

Whiplash Treatment

Treatment for whiplash typically includes medications and other non-surgical treatment. Surgery is rarely required. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the extent of the injury, your age, overall medical condition and your tolerance for specific medications or therapies.


Non-surgical Treatment Options


  • Ice applications for the first 24 hours after the incident.
  • Supplemental heat application to relieve muscle tension.
  • Pain medications, starting with over-the-counter and moving to prescription if necessary.
  • Epidural injections, often in combination with a physical therapy or exercise program. The injections send steroids, which are strong anti-inflammatories, to the inflamed nerve root. Your WellStar neurologist may suggest other types of injections depending on your injury.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antidepressant.
  • Muscle relaxants.
  • Cervical collar worn for several hours a day for 2-3 weeks. The collar (or brace) provides support to the neck as the soft tissues heal. It limits movement, which takes the load off the neck.

Other treatments include range of motion exercises, cervical (neck) traction and physical therapy. WellStar physical therapists offer exceptional treatment at several convenient locations. Your doctor will discuss this option with you.


Surgery

Whiplash injuries rarely require surgery. But if shoulder or neck pain persists, your neurosurgeon may recommend a surgical procedure. The type of surgery will depend on what parts of the cervical spine have been injured.


Discectomy is a procedure to remove all or part of a damaged disk. The procedure usually causes an unstable spine, which means the spine moves in abnormal ways that put your at risk for serious neurological injury. For that reason a discectomy is often accompanied by a stabilizing procedure. Options include:


  • Cervical disk replacement. This is a relatively new surgical option in which the neurosurgeon implants an artificial cevical disk. The technique allows more movement and creates less stress on the remaining vertebrae than traditional spinal fusion surgery.
  • Fusion and spinal instrumentation. This traditional spine stabilization method creates an environment in which the spine fuses together over time. A bone graft or biological substance is used to stimulate bone growth. Spinal instrumentation (wires, cables, screws, rods or plate) is used to increase stability and help fuse the bones.

Corpectomy may be recommended if the whiplash injury has caused a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck (spinal stenosis).


Discuss all options in depth with your neurosurgeon to learn about the benefits and risks as they relate to your injury and specific medical condition. Surgical complications can include injury to the spinal cord or other organs, failure to improve, instrument breakage/failure, infection, pain and swilling in the leg, blood clots in the lung and other very rare complications including paralysis or death.

Related Information

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