DWTS 14: Melissa Gilbert and whiplash

What is whiplash? The common joke is that what people claim when their car has been rear-ended and they aren’t injured but are hoping for a monetary jackpot. But whiplash is a soft-tissue injury that is medically recognized and can be extremely painful.

Monday night (9 April 2012), Melissa Gilbert was taken to the hospital after her dance (the paso doble to “Conquest”) because she was feeling dizzy. She later tweeted: “I’m alright. Mild concussion and whiplash. Very soon I will be safely home resting and being taken care of.”

It might help to think of whiplash as a neck sprain or neck strain. Whiplash is caused by a sudden jerking or jarring motion of the head–either backward or forward. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the injury can include¬†intervertebral joints, discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots.

The symptoms might not be immediately felt. Recovery is expected for most people within 3 months.From my experience, the real pain came with in 24 hours. The symptoms according to WebMd.com include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Low back pain
  • Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears or blurred vision
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue

With today’s technology, you can see evidence of whiplash, but not with the standard X-rays. Rather, you need things like CT scans, or MRIs.

Suggested treatment from MedlinePlus includes:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Apply heat or ice to the painful area. One good method is to use ice for the first 48 – 72 hours, then use heat after that. Heat may be applied with hot showers, hot compresses, or a heating pad. Be careful not to fall asleep with a heating pad or ice bag on. This can give you burns or frostbite.
  • Reduce or stop your normal physical activity for the first few days. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce swelling (inflammation).
  • Perform slow range-of-motion exercises — up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear — to gently stretch the neck muscles.
  • Have a partner gently massage the sore or painful areas.
  • Try sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow.
  • Use a soft neck collar for a short period of time to relieve discomfort. (Using a soft neck collar for a long time can make the neck muscles weaker and prolong your neck pain.)

Besides dancing, sports injuries and car accidents, whiplash can be caused by roller coasters and other amusement park rides, being punched or shaken violently. Whiplash is one of the signs of shaken baby syndrome.

Gilbert can expect to be in pain and she also might suffer from dizziness which would make controlling her turns problematic. Because Gilbert’s concussion and whiplash is considered mild, we expect her to return to the dance floor, but suspect that the injury will only add to the stiffness that her dancing already suffers from.


About Jana J. Monji

I've written for the Rafu Shimpo, LA Weekly, LA Times, Examiner.com and, more recently, the Pasadena Weekly and RogerEbert.com. I formerly worked for a dot-com more interested in yodeling than its customers.

Posted on April 11, 2012, in Dancing with the Stars Season 14, Melissa Gilbert and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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