Definition

Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the neck is forcefully moved back and forth like a whip, injuring tissue in the head and neck. It typically occurs during motor accidents, most notably in rear-end collisions, but it can be the result of other trauma as well.

Causes

  • Motor accidents: Sudden violent stops that occur during motor collisions can result in whiplash. This occurs most often in rear-end collisions.
  • Physical abuse and assault: A violent blow to the head can cause whiplash injuries.
  • Sports-related collisions: Participation in contact sports like football can result in whiplash injury to the neck.

Effects

The symptoms of whiplash can often be felt immediately, but sometimes it takes several hours or days before they begin to appear. The pain can be moderate to severe and it can take a few weeks to a few months to fully heal.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulders, back or arms
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Tightness in the neck
  • Tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms

More rarely, you may experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased mood and irritability
  • Difficulty remembering and concentrating on tasks

Treatments

Physical therapy can help relieve the symptoms of whiplash. Treatments help relieve pain, relax muscle tension, and restore movement. Exercise may also be utilized to strengthen the injured area and return the patient to their daily activity.