When most people think of whiplash, they think of neck pain following a rear-end collision, but the truth is, it can happen anywhere in the spine and from almost any angle or impact. The traditional whiplash occurs during a collision when a person’s spine is “jerked” too far backward and too far forwards, putting excessive stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints which protect and hold a person’s spine together.

What happens after an accident?

What happens next varies from person to person and depends on the force of impact and underlying conditions.The pain is often instantaneous but can also take several days to fully set in. Common symptoms include muscle and joint pain, muscle spasm, dizziness, headache and limited mobility. Sometimes the pain and symptoms retreat on their own, however often they do not, making normal day-to-day activities unbearable for people to live with. In either case, the underlying causes of the person’s pain should be addressed by a qualified health care provider, to reduce long-term damage and reoccurring pain.

Whiplash Facts:

  • 3 million whiplash injuries occur every year in the US.
  • Whiplash symptoms may take up to 72 hours to appear.
  • 60% of whiplash injuries happened in car accidents with low speeds of 6-12 mph, though most cars can withstand a crash of 8-12 mph without any damage.
  • Drowsiness
  • Contact sports such as boxing and football can also result in whiplash injuries.
  • The disc can be torn and injured as the result of a whiplash.
  • A clear X-Ray does not necessarily mean there is no injury.
  • Pre-existing arthritis can complicate a whiplash injury.
  • If both sides are insured and you are not “at fault,” your initial evaluation and necessary treatment are often covered without an out-of-pocket expense by the other side’s insurance.


Question: A patient’s history is very telling in the case of Whiplash. The most common cause is an auto accident but whiplash injuries can also occur in contact sports and falls.

Assess: Whiplash is most common in the neck but can also occur in the low back. Oftentimes there is also head trauma or bruising to other areas of the body. A doctor assessing a potential whiplash will likely look at multiple areas of the body and inventory all the damage.

Plan: Getting the joints moving again is typically a high priority following a whiplash. Consideration of other injuries is also important. It is common for a plan to gradually build up depending on the severity of the patients injuries and/or include a referral to another specialist while conservitve treatment is concurrently initiated. Like with any injury, ice is usually a key component of the self care portion of the plan.

Execute: Recovery with acute traumas can take longer than many conditions. Consistent care and compliance with self-management recommendations will lead to a more efficient healing process. When a whiplash patient fails to achieve what is called pre-accident status within 8-12 weeks, pain management or an MRI are typically the next logical steps.

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