Whiplash is a common type of injury often caused by being rear-ended in a motor vehicle accident. Whiplash is a severe type of neck sprain caused when the head is whipped quickly forward (hyperflexion) and backward (hyperextension).
Whiplash symptoms include:
- Neck pain; mild to intense
- Pain that spreads (radiates) into the shoulders, upper back, arms
- Sharp, dull, throbbing, and/or burning pain
- Neck and upper body stiffness
- Jaw pain (immediate or delayed)
- Ringing in the ears
Talk with your doctor
Whiplash symptoms may not be apparent after injury. Sometimes symptoms develop hours or days after. Sudden pain or pain that is severe, or that becomes chronic or progressive, requires evaluation by your doctor. Even if you are being treated for whiplash, contact your doctor if any of these symptoms develop:
- Loss of coordination; hand clumsiness
- Balance problems
- Difficulty walking
- Bladder or bowel dysfunction (rare)
- Paralysis (rare)
Your doctor collects and compares information gathered while talking with you about your medical history and past and existing symptoms. A physical and neurological examination looks for limitations of movement, balance difficulties, and what exacerbates and relieves pain. During the exam he tests your reflexes, muscle strength, sensations, or other signs of neurologic loss. Your doctor may order imaging studies such as plain x-ray, CT, or MRI to study and confirm you diagnosis to direct your treatment plan.
The need for surgery is rare. Most patients with whiplash respond to non-surgical care:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Muscle relaxant medication
- Pain medication (occasionally, a narcotic)
- Cold and heat therapy
- Soft cervical collar or brace
- Soft tissue massage
- Physical therapy
- Cervical (neck) traction
- Alternative therapies (eg, acupuncture)
A soft cervical collar or brace is worn to help mobilize the neck, support the weight of the skull, and relieve pain while neck tissues heal.
- Whiplash Animation
- Causes of Whiplash
- Neck Braces: A Type of Spinal Brace
- Chiropractic Care: Symptoms of Whiplash
- What is Whiplash?
- Whiplash: Neck Trauma and Treatment
- Chiropractic Care for Whiplash
- Exams and Tests for Whiplash
- Drugs and Medications for Whiplash
- What Disorders Do Chiropractors Treat?