What is Whiplash Injury (Neck Strain)?


By Dr Anup Khatri in Orthopedic

Whiplash is an injury occurring due to forcibly bending of the neck forward or backward / due to sudden neck strain

Causes of Whiplash Injury

Major causes of whiplash injury are:

  • Road traffic accidents – most common in rear collisions
  • Sports Injury
  • Fall
  • Amusement park rides
  • Physical abuse
  • Adventure Sports

What are the symptoms of Whiplash Injury?

Symptoms for a whiplash injury may take 24hrs to a few days to appear

The most common symptoms of whiplash injury are:

  • Whiplash neck pain
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Arm pain

Diagnosis of Whiplash – How is it done?

  • Complete history and examination of the affected area in detail by the doctor
  • X-ray to rule out any fractures
  • In whiplash injury most frequently involved are the muscles/tendons, for best visualization of these imaging techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) / Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans are considered as the choice of investigation of choice

Complications of Whiplash (Neck Strain)?

Whiplash Injury is curable, most of the people diagnosed with whiplash recover within a few weeks to months, in a few cases the pain may stay for longer

Whiplash Treatment

After being diagnosed with whiplash injury, Multiple factors are kept into consideration before starting the treatment by the doctors such as the age of the patient, severity of the injury, range of motion of the affected part, tenderness, reflexes

The main aim of the treatment is to ensure that patient’s pain is reduced and with time normal range of movements of the affected part is achieved and the person is able to lead a normal life

  • Rest - is the most important part of treatment as the lesser the patient will put a strain on the affected area better will it heal
  • Hot/Cold Pack application - Hot/Cold pack depending upon the severity & time passed since the injury, 15-20 minutes of cold/hot pack application every day at an interval of 3-4 hours will help in reducing the inflammation of the affected area and speed up the recovery process
  • Neck Collar - To support & restrict the movement of the affected area foam collar will be required and will also help in reducing the pain
  • Medications - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen will help in reducing whiplash pain
  • Muscle Relaxants & Injectables - In severe cases of pain & injury muscle relaxants & steroid injections may be prescribed by the doctor
  • Physiotherapy - With the decrease in pain to improve the mobility and strength of the affected part physiotherapy will be required such as rotational exercises, laser therapy such as TENS (Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) may be required

Whiplash - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does Whiplash do to your Neck?

Due to whiplash injury, a person may experience whiplash neck pain, restricted mobility of the neck and pain can also radiate to the arm and back and also cause headache

How do you treat Neck Whiplash?

The main aim of the treatment is to reduce the patient’s neck pain and achieve a normal range of movements of the neck, this can be achieved by rest, cold/hot pack application, medications and physiotherapy

What happens if you leave Whiplash untreated?

If whiplash is left untreated, the Patient will experience chronic pain & due to restricted mobility of the part leading a normal life will be difficult, individual can also develop conditions such as vertigo, migraine, chronic headache, stiffness of affected area, degenerative disc diseases, shoulder pain radiating to the arm

How should you sleep with Whiplash?

In a whiplash injury, either using a rolled towel under the neck or a special neck pillow will be beneficial as it will reduce the strain on the neck and decrease the pain

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