Whiplash is a neck injury that includes:
- Spraining the neck ligaments
- Straining the neck muscles
- Possible bone and nerve injury
Factors that may increase your chance of whiplash include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sporting events that include full contact
Symptoms often develop in the hours after the injury. They tend to reach their peak within 24 hours of 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
- Blurred vision
- Unusual fatigue
The 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:
An EMG may also be done. It can help show signs of nerve damage.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:
- Heat or ice packs—Talk with your doctor about using heat or ice to relieve muscle tension and pain. Place a towel between the ice or heat pack and the skin.
Medications such as:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxants
- Moving as able—strict rest may slow recovery
- Physical therapy
- Joint manipulation of the spine done by a chiropractor or other trained provider
If you are diagnosed with whiplash, follow your doctor's instructions.
There are no guidelines for preventing whiplash. It often occurs due to an unexpected event.