Can whiplash cause cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis describes deterioration of the soft tissues that make up the upper spine. This degeneration occurs as part of the natural aging process, which is why the condition is extremely common, especially in older individuals. One frequent cause of cervical spondylosis is a bulging or herniated disc in the neck that begins to press against a nerve root. When this happens, it can trigger pain at the site of the injury, as well symptoms such as pain, numbness and tingling anywhere along the affected nerve. Since spinal discs usually deteriorate gradually over time, many individuals with early-stage cervical spondylosis are unaware they have the condition. It can, however, be exacerbated by sudden traumatic injuries such as whiplash.

Whiplash is the sudden, forceful motion of the head backward and then forward. This jarring action can tear muscles or tendons in the neck. Although the majority of reported whiplash cases occur when one vehicle is struck from behind by another, it can also be the result of a roller coaster ride, a bungee jump, a football injury or physical assault. Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain that can range from mild to excruciating
  • Hard or knotted muscles in the neck
  • Pain when pivoting the head forward and backward or from side to side
  • Pain or stiffness when attempting to look over a shoulder
  • Headaches that originate at the base of the skull and radiate into the forehead
  • Numbness, tingling and muscle weakness that radiate into one shoulder and down the arm

Whiplash pain can manifest immediately after the incident or up to 48 hours later. For those without a pre-existing condition, symptoms usually subside within six weeks. For people already experiencing some level of spondylosis, however, recovery may take years. And in some cases, symptoms may persist indefinitely.

At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons+ have performed thousands of minimally invasive outpatient procedures that have helped patients who were suffering from a wide range of spinal conditions, including spondylosis. If you are experiencing chronic pain due to cervical spondylosis and conservative treatment options have not been effective in managing your symptoms, you may be a candidate for our outpatient surgeries. As part of the screening process, Laser Spine Institute can provide a free MRI review.* To learn more, contact a member of our team today.