Most patients of whiplash injuries recover fully without the need for surgical intervention. However, the symptoms of whiplash injury can become chronic, such as persistent neck and shoulder pain, and surgery is the only way to correct them.
If non-surgical methods such as physical therapy and massage treatments have failed to eliminate the pain that is felt as a result of a whiplash injury it is recommended that you visit a spine specialist.
The specialist is likely to fully review your case and run some tests to assess the nature of your injury, before they decide what sort of surgery you need. Some surgical treatments commonly performed to treat chronic whiplash symptoms include the following:
- Discectomy – this procedure is performed when the surgeon finds a ruptured or herniated intervertebral disc between two vertebral bodies. This condition produces chronic arm pain, weakness and numbness. The only way to suppress the symptoms completely is to surgically remove the ruptured disc.
- Placement of artificial cervical discs. This is likely to follow a discectomy because the removal of an intervertebral disc may cause instability in the spine. To restore stability the surgeon will implant an artificial disc in place of the damaged one and this will allow the patient to move their neck freely without any pain or discomfort.
- Fusion and spinal instrumentation. This is another permanent stabilization technique commonly performed after discectomies. In this stabilization procedure the surgeon is likely to plant a bone graft or bone growth stimulant to promote bone growth in the area which will result in ultimate fusion of the two vertebral bodies which no longer have an intervertebral disc between them. The surgeon may also perform spinal instrumentation to stabilize the spine while bone fusion occurs, using cables, screws, rods, plate and wires.
- Cervical corpectomy. This surgery is performed if the whiplash injury has caused spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). During this procedure, a portion of the vertebral bone and intervertebral disc is removed to reduce pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
Laminoplasty. The lamina is a bony plate found at the back of each vertebra and often this plate may be pressing on the spinal cord or nerves after a whiplash injury, causing chronic pain. To correct this, part of the lamina is removed in a procedure called a laminectomy or laminoplasty.
Cervical foraminotomy. Another possible result of a whiplash injury that is likely to result in chronic pain is the narrowing of the intervertebral formina. This is a small space through which nerve roots pass to join the spinal canal. When this space is narrowed due to trauma, the bone around the foramen will press down on the nerves causing pain. This surgical procedure is used to increase the size of this pathway so that the nerve can pass through freely without being compressed.
Post-op recovery periods after surgery for whiplash injuries last for about 2 to 4 weeks during which you will be on pain medications, your physical activities will be restricted and you will have to be careful when sitting down, rising and standing.read more