Vehicular accidents: Am I at risk for whiplash?

Whiplash occurs once the head of an individual moves backward and forward abruptly with great force. The injury is quite common after a rear-end vehicular accident. It can also be caused by sports injuries, physical abuse or riding amusement park rides.

This injury occurs once the soft tissues of the neck extend beyond the usual range of motion. The symptoms might not be evident for some time. This is why it is vital to pay close attention to any physical changes for a few days after an accident. Even though whiplash is considered as a mild condition, it can lead to lasting discomfort and pain.

What are the causes?

Whiplash occurs once the neck muscles end up strained due to the rapid backward and forward movement. The abrupt movement causes the neck ligaments and tendons to stretch out and eventually tear, resulting to whiplash.

There are various activities that can cause whiplash such as the following:

  • Physical abuse
  • Vehicular accidents

    The doctor might often prescribe an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin or acetaminophen.

  • Cycling accidents
  • Contact sports
  • Horseback riding
  • Direct blow to the head
  • Falls where the head is jerked backward violently

What are the indications of whiplash?

The symptoms of whiplash usually manifest within 24 hours after an accident. Oftentimes, the symptoms can manifest after a few days and even persist for several weeks.

  • Neck pain and rigidity
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Constant weariness

The uncommon symptoms linked with chronic whiplash include the following:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Issues with memory and concentration
  • Irritability
  • Inability to sleep well
  • Chronic pain in the shoulders, neck or head

It is vital to set a follow-up consultation with a doctor right away if the symptoms radiate to the shoulders or arms, if moving the head triggers pain or there is numbness or weakness in the arms.


The treatment for whiplash is simple. The doctor might often prescribe an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin or acetaminophen. In severe cases, prescription pain medications and muscle relaxants are given to reduce the muscle spasms.

Aside from medications, physical therapy has a vital role in the recovery of the injury. It is best to apply an ice pack or heating pad over the affected area and perform simple exercises to establish strength and flexibility in the neck. Maintaining good posture and learning relaxation techniques to prevent straining on the neck muscles can promote faster recovery.

In some cases, a foam collar is given to maintain the stability of the neck. The collar should not be used for more than 3 hours at a time and must be used on the initial days after the injury.