Common symptoms and treatment for whiplash (full sample)

Common symptoms and treatment for whiplash (full sample)

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Whiplash is a common injury, normally occurring in road traffic incidents. Understanding the symptoms and treatments of whiplash and whiplash-associated disorder can help the people affected by it to better deal with their condition. This article summarizes what whiplash is, and the most common symptoms and treatments.




Whiplash is an injury that occurs to a person's back, normally in the upper back/neck area, as a result of a sudden jolt that causes the head to move rapidly backward and then forward. The most common cause of whiplash incidents is as the result of a road traffic incident, especially those involving a collision where the car is hit from behind. It is estimated that whiplash injuries cost the US economy up to $30 billion a year due to sick leave, disability, lost work productivity, damages, medical costs, and litigation.

Whiplash can involve injury both to the bones of the spine and to the ligaments, muscles, and soft tissues around the spine and in the neck. Although whiplash can be an unpleasant and uncomfortable injury that requires rest and rehabilitation to recover from, it is not life-threatening.

Generally, symptoms from whiplash can be separated into two categories:

1. Symptoms from whiplash itself.

2. Symptoms from whiplash-associated disorder.

Symptoms from whiplash itself

Symptoms from whiplash include the following which generally occur within 24 hours of an incident that could cause whiplash (commonly an automobile accident) but they can take a week or more to arise:

  • Pain in the head, neck, shoulders, back, and spine.

  • Decreased range of motion of the head and neck.

  • Stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.

  • Tenderness, especially in and around the neck.

  • Headaches, especially in the base of the skull, dizziness, and fatigue.

  • Jaw pain.

  • Arm pain and weakness.

  • Disturbances in eyesight and hearing including tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Symptoms from whiplash-associated disorder

Whiplash-associated disorder can occur in patients who have had whiplash for an extended period. This disorder tends to manifest as neurological and psychological symptoms including:

  • Mild depression.

  • Mood swings.

  • Anger, frustration, and irritability.

  • Anxiety and stress.

  • Drug dependency (prescription or recreational).

  • Insomnia.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Treatment for whiplash

There are several treatments for whiplash that vary in their effectiveness. Although it was originally believed that a soft cervical (neck) collar was the best way to treat whiplash by restricting head and neck movement, it is now generally thought that encouraging gentle movement and physical therapy of the neck and spine are more beneficial to a rapid recovery. These movements can include gentle rotational exercises and other education and movement as directed by a physical therapist or doctor.

These exercises help strengthen muscles to support the neck and spine. Painkillers, heat, and ice can also be used to help reduce discomfort and provide pain relief; additionally, ice will help control and reduce swelling.

Whiplash-associated disorder can be treated through counseling, therapy, antidepressants, or other medications.

In all cases, diagnosis and treatment of whiplash and its associated symptoms should be made by a medical professional. Whiplash is easily treatable via exercises and pain medication and quick diagnosis combined with an effective treatment plan can help you recover from your symptoms quickly.

Content originally written by Paul Maplesden, a freelance writer, and edited by me.



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