Whiplash Risk Factors, Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment


Whiplash is a neck injury caused by the neck jerking back and forth suddenly and abruptly, much like a whip.

Rear-end automobile accidents frequently result in whiplash. However, other traumas such as falls, physical abuse, sports accidents, and other traumas can also result in whiplash. Whiplash is sometimes referred to as a neck strain or sprain, but this terminology also includes other neck ailments.

By following a treatment plan that includes medications and exercise, the majority of whiplash victims recover within a few weeks. However, some people experience persistent neck discomfort and other issues.


The most common cause of whiplash is having your head violently and suddenly pushed backwards and then forward. This action has the potential to harm the neck's ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues in addition to the spine's bones and intervertebral discs.

Whiplash can happen as a result of:

Automobile mishaps. Whiplash is frequently brought on by rear-end crashes, 

Physical attack or maltreatment. You may have whiplash if you are struck or startled. One of the injuries linked to shaken infant syndrome is this one.

Contact sports. Whiplash can occasionally result from football tackles and other sports-related incidents.

How to check if you have Whiplash?

If you have neck discomfort or other whiplash symptoms following a car accident, sports injury, or other traumatic injuries, consult a doctor right at once. In order to rule out fractured bones or other injuries that might cause or exacerbate symptoms, it is critical to obtain a timely and correct diagnosis.

Risk Factors


Injury from whiplash may happen to anybody, young or old. With age, there is a higher chance that whiplash will occur after a car accident. Our strength and fitness steadily deteriorate as we get older, the degenerative processes of the spine start, and there is a long history of neck injuries, all of which increase the risk of damage.

Prior Injury

 People who have previously suffered from neck injuries may be more susceptible to sustaining whiplash in an accident. The severity of new injuries and the recovery length may be negatively impacted by prior injuries.


Whiplash symptoms, which may include the following, often appear within days after the injury.

  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Movement causing the neck discomfort to worsen
  • Neck stiffness and loss of range of motion
  • Most frequently beginning near the base of the skull, headaches
  • Discomfort or pain in the arms, upper back, or shoulder
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Some individuals also may experience the following:

  • Distorted vision
  • An earache (tinnitus)
  • Disruptions in sleep
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Memory issues
  • Depression


The objectives of whiplash therapy are to:

  • Minimize discomfort
  • Regain your neck's natural range of motion.
  • Return to your regular activities
  • The course of your therapy will depend on how severe your whiplash damage is. 
  • Some people just require at-home care and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Others could require physical therapy, expert pain management, or prescription medication.

Treatment of pain

One or more of the following remedies may be suggested by your doctor to relieve pain:

Rest. After an accident, resting may be beneficial for a day or two, but staying in bed too long might hinder healing.

Cold or heat. You could feel better if you apply heat or ice to your neck for 15 minutes every three hours or so.

Nonprescription painkillers. Over-the-counter analgesics, including Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, among others) are frequently effective for controlling mild to moderate whiplash pain.

Medicines on prescription. Some antidepressant medications that have been found to reduce nerve pain may be used for patients with more acute pain.

Muscle relaxants. To relax tense muscles and relieve pain, doctors may advise using these medications for a brief period of time. Additionally, the medication may induce sleep. If discomfort keeps you from having a good night's sleep, it can assist you in resuming regular sleep.

Injections. To relieve pain so that you may engage in physical therapy, a numbing medication called lidocaine (Xylocaine) may be injected into sore muscle regions.


You will likely be given a list of stretches and mobility drills to perform at home by your doctor. With the aid of these exercises, you may regain your neck range of motion and resume your regular activities. Before exercising, it may be advised to take a warm shower or apply moist heat to the hurting region.

Exercises might consist of the following:

  • Rotating your neck clockwise and anticlockwise
  • Swaying your head back and forth
  • Neck bending in the direction of the chest
  • Shoulders rolling

Physical exercise

Your doctor might advise seeing a physical therapist if you have persistent whiplash discomfort or need help with range-of-motion exercises. You can feel better with physical therapy, and it might also stop subsequent injuries. Your physical therapist will lead you through exercises to build up your muscles, straighten your spine, and regain your range of motion.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may be used in certain circumstances. TENS stimulates the skin with a little electric current. Limited data show that this procedure may enhance muscular strength while temporarily relieving neck discomfort.

There will be variations in the number of physical therapy sessions needed for each person. Additionally, your physical therapist can design an at-home workout programme just for you.

Padded collars.

In the past, whiplash injuries were frequently treated using soft foam cervical collars that kept the head and neck immobile. Studies have nevertheless indicated that holding the neck immobile for extended periods of time might reduce muscular strength and obstruct healing.

Wearing a collar to restrict mobility may help you feel less discomfort right away and even improve your ability to sleep at night. There are several opinions on how to use a collar.

Others believe it may be worn for up to three hours a day for a few weeks. Some experts advise restricting use to no more than 72 hours. You can get instructions from your doctor on how to wear the collar properly and for how long.

Complications of Whiplash

Most whiplash victims recover completely within a few weeks and do not appear to experience any long-term consequences. However, some people experience discomfort months or years after the injury.

It is challenging to anticipate how each whiplash victim will heal. Please access medical assistance, if your initial signs were severe, appeared suddenly, and included any of the following:

  • Bad neck discomfort
  • Smaller range of motion
  • Spreading discomfort to the arms

Poorer results have been associated with the following risk factors:

  • Having already experienced whiplash
  • Existing neck or low back discomfort
  • A speed-related injury


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Page last reviewed: Mar 21, 2023

Next review due: Mar 21, 2025

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