Whiplash Injury (Hyperflexion/Hyperextension Injury)
Whiplash is defined as a sudden injury to the neck whereby the neck is forced into rapid hyperflexion (bending forwards) and hyperextension (bending backwards). This rapid motion to the cervical spine results in soft tissue sprain/strain complications. The whiplash injury may be further complicated by segmental dislocations, torn cervical ligaments and/or tendons, intervertebral disc damage (known as a rim lesion and resulting in cervical radiculopathy), or vertebrae fractures. The most common means of acquiring a whiplash injury is via a motor vehicle accident, however contact sports like rugby or football etc. and extreme sports like snowboarding, bungy jumping or water skiing can produce a hyperflexion/hyperextension injury to the cervical spine.
Following the injury pain can be felt immediately or up to one week following the trauma; muscle tenderness and spasms as well as cervical radiculopathy into the neck, shoulders and arms may be present. Headaches, reduced neck movement, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and blurred vision are not uncommon. Movement will elicit further signs and symptoms of whiplash.
Hyperflexion and hyperextension injuries are serious and not to be taken lightly. Rehabilitation following a whiplash injury is a delicate process and in some instances referral for immediate surgery is required.