Whiplash is an injury of the neck due to powerful rapid back-and-forth movement, much like the cracking of a whip. This jerking movement may injure the vertebrae in the neck and the discs between the vertebrae as well as associated tissues, ligaments, muscles and nerves.

Whiplash may be the result of:

  • Motor vehicle accidents. The most common cause of whiplash are rear-end collisions
  • Physical assault. A forceful punch to the face or violent shaking
  • Sports. Impact between players in contact sports, such as football

Symptoms of Whiplash

Whiplash symptoms typically develop within 24 hours of injury and may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches generally starting at the base of the skull
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Memory problems
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement

Treatments for Whiplash

With whiplash, the goal of treatment is to restore full range of motion to the neck and manage pain associated with the injury. At The Center for Spinal Disorders, our team of experienced physicians and staff can assess the degree of severity and provide treatment options, including pain management, exercise, physical therapy and collars.

Pain Management – There are several pain management options for effectively managing pain from whiplash:

  • Rest. Resting 24 hours after a whiplash injury may help, but prolonged bed rest may hinder the recovery process
  • Ice or heat. Hot or cold compresses may be applied in 15-minute intervals up to six times a day
  • Pain medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (i.e., Advil®) should control mild to moderate pain from whiplash. Prescription painkillers may also be prescribed for a short time
  • Muscle relaxants. Muscle relaxants control pain and may aid in sleep if pain inhibits sleeping at night
  • Injections. An injection of lidocaine into affected muscles may be given to minimize pain during physical therapy. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that causes numbness or loss of feeling

Exercise – A series of stretching and movement exercises may be suggested to aid in the return of normal activity and restore range of motion in the neck. Exercises may include:

  • Bending the neck towards the chest
  • Neck rotation
  • Shoulder rolling
  • Tilting of the neck from one side to another

Physical Therapy – A physical therapist may be recommended for chronic pain from whiplash or if patients need to learn range of motion exercises. Additional exercises may also be suggested to strengthen muscles and improve posture. The goal for the patient is to learn exercises that can be performed in the comfort of home on an independent basis.

Collars – A cervical collar made of soft foam may be recommended to keep the neck and head still for a short period of time following injury. It may also be used for patients who have difficulty sleeping due to pain.

About Our Orthopedic Practice

The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders is a comprehensive practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of back pain and spinal disorders. With a multidisciplinary team approach, our board certified physicians and experienced staff are committed to personalized care for relief of spine-related pain and restoring quality of life to our patients.

We provide nonsurgical, minimally invasive and traditional surgical options in our state-of-the-art facilities.

For more information on whiplash or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.