(Cervical Sprain and Neck Muscle Strain)
DefinitionWhiplash is a soft tissue neck injury that can include:
- Spraining the neck ligaments
- Straining the neck muscles
- Injury to cervical discs
- Possible nerve injury
|Process Leading to Whiplash|
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CausesWhiplash can occur with any sudden, violent, backward jerk of the head or neck.
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your chance of whiplash include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sporting events that include full contact
SymptomsSymptoms often develop in the hours after the injury although they can develop in the days after the injury.Symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck
- Neck pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Shoulder pain and stiffness
- Decreased range of neck motion
- Muscle spasms
- Pain, numbness, or tingling extending down an arm
- Unusual fatigue
DiagnosisThe doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Most whiplash injuries do not show up on imaging tests. Your doctor may order some tests to make sure that no other injuries have occurred.Your doctor may want to take images of the neck to look for further damage. Images may be taken with:
TreatmentTalk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:
- Use an ice pack for the first few days, then switch to a heat pack.
- Medications such as:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxants
- Move as your able—strict rest may slow recovery
- Physical therapy and exercises
- Joint manipulation of the spine done by a chiropractor or other trained provider
PreventionThere are no current guidelines for preventing whiplash. It often occurs due to an unexpected event.
FamilyDoctor.org - American Academy of Family Physicians
OrthoInfo.org - American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Cervical sprain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 25, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Conlin A, Bhogal S, et al. Treatment of whiplash-associated disorders--part I: Non-invasive interventions. Pain Research & Management. 10(1):21-32, 2005.
Conlin A, Bhogal S, et al. Treatment of whiplash-associated disorders--part II: Medical and surgical interventions. Pain Research & Management. 10(1):33-40, 2005.
Curatolo M, Arendt-Nielsen L, et al. Evidence, mechanisms, and clinical implications of central hypersensitivity in chronic pain after whiplash injury. Clinical Journal of Pain. 20(6):469-76, 2004 Nov-Dec.
Neck sprain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00410. Updated August 2007. Accessed June 10, 2013.
NINDS whiplash information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/whiplash/whiplash.htm. Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Verhagen AP, Scholten-Peeters GG, et al. Conservative treatments for whiplash. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (2):CD003338, 2007.
- Reviewer: Teresa Briedwell, DPT, OCS
- Review Date: 05/2014
- Update Date: 05/23/2014