What is whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury to your neck. It is caused by your neck bending forcibly forward
and then backward, or vice versa. The injury, which is poorly understood, usually
involves the muscles, disks, nerves, and tendons in your neck.
What causes whiplash?
Most whiplash injuries result from a collision that includes sudden acceleration or
deceleration. Many whiplash injuries occur when you are involved in a rear-end automobile
collision. They also happen as a result of a sports injury, particularly during contact
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
These are the most common symptoms of whiplash:
The symptoms of whiplash may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare
provider for a diagnosis.
How is whiplash diagnosed?
Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, tests for whiplash may include:
X-ray. Electromagnetic energy beams make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto
film. But many whiplash injuries include damage to soft tissue that can't be seen
MRI. Large magnets and a computer make detailed images of organs and soft tissue structures
in your body.
CT scan. X-rays and computer technology make detailed images of any part of your body, including
your bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
How is whiplash treated?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend
on how severe the condition is.
Treatment may include:
Ice applications for the first 24 hours
Cervical (neck) collar
Gentle, active movement after 24 hours
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen)
Muscle relaxing medicines
Topical gels or shots into the neck to ease pain
What are possible complications of whiplash?
While most people who have a whiplash injury recover within a few weeks to a few months,
some have persistent pain for several months or longer.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
If your symptoms have not improved within the time frame your healthcare provider
suggested, let him or her know. Also, if your symptoms get worse or you get new symptoms,
tell your provider.
Key points about whiplash
Whiplash is poorly understood, but it usually involves the muscles, disks, nerves,
and tendons in your neck.
It is caused by the neck bending forcibly forward and then backward, or vice versa.
Many whiplash injuries occur if you are involved in a rear-end automobile collision.
Your healthcare provider will determine specific treatment for your whiplash.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also
know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.