Girl clutching the base of her skull

Auto Injuries: Whiplash

Whiplash is an injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve endings in the neck. Whiplash occurs as a result of neck hyperflexion and hyperextension. Symptoms of whiplash may not appear for the first few hours or days after sustaining an injury. The sudden motion of your head along with the pressure from exterior forces can cause your neck’s soft tissues to stretch and tear.  The acceleration and deceleration of the head affects the structural portion of the spine otherwise known as facet joints. These joints can be forced into each other causing capsule damage.

Whiplash commonly results from car accidents, including those as low as 12 mph. The collision impact forces your neck to quickly propel forward and then rebound. Such a quick jarring movement causes damage to the nine vertebrae of your neck. Any damage to these vertebrae can cause headaches, shoulder, and neck pain. 

Common factors that affect the severity of whiplash symptoms include your age, gender, and posture. As you age, your muscles weaken, and your mobility becomes limited. Women have a higher disposition for whiplash, as they have comparatively smaller bones and weaker neck muscles than men. 

If in an accident, women drivers are at a higher risk for sustaining whiplash injuries, as they tend to have their seats further upright and adjusted closer to the steering wheel. This position affects the intensity and severity of impact with the headrest and can aggravate whiplash conditions. 

  • Tenderness/Tightness of Neck Muscles
  • Headaches
  • Upper/Lower Back Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Fatigue/Trouble Sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Pain When Looking Over Your Shoulder
  • Decreased Range of Motion
  • Blurred Vision/Dizziness
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Car Accidents
  • Blows to the Head
  • Abuse
  • Contact Sports Such as Football, Boxing, and Karate
  • Falling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Cycling Accidents

Over the counter medications may help with mild cases of whiplash.  More severe cases may require prescriptions for painkillers and muscle relaxers to reduce muscle spasms. For home care, gentle exercises, heating, and icing may help reduce pain. Depending upon the severity thereof, physical therapy, injections, massage, chiropractic care, electronic nerve stimulation, and acupuncture may also help. 

When to See a Doctor
  • Your Neck Pain Spreads to Your Shoulders and Arms
  • Simple Neck Movements Cause Pain
  • You Have Numbness or Weakness in Your Arms
  • You Have Severe Neck Pain
Common Misconceptions 

Whiplash is not a minor injury that will heal quickly without treatment. Thus, the speed of recovery depends upon the injury and the treatment received. 

Whiplash reflects how the injury occurred and not the severity thereof. 

Whiplash cannot be seen on an X-ray due to the type of damage; X-rays do not capture ligament, muscle, and tendon damage. Therefore, CT scans or MRIs should be used instead. 

Were you or someone you know involved in a recent auto accident? Call Auto Accident Care Network now at 801-683-1948 to connect with a live care advocate. Our team at AACN can connect you to trusted attorneys and doctors to schedule a free legal consultation, a free thirty-minute massage, and a no-cost medical exam!

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