Whiplash Injury

Whiplash is a common term used on a certain injury or strain to the neck from a sudden movement or impact of the head, altering the normal range of motion (ROM) of the affected bones, muscles and/or ligaments.  It is defined in scientific literature by Quebec Task Force as an acceleration-deceleration energy transfer mechanism to the affected area of the neck.

HOW WHIPLASH IS SUSTAINEDThis kind of vehicular injury is caused by a sudden crash or impact from behind. A seatbelt may have prevented a person’s body from throwing forward but his head cannot. The person’s head then moves forward due to the impact and then backwards to retaliate, and then making a usual S-shape deformation on the neck area.

Aside from vehicular accidents, whiplash injury can also be caused by roller coaster rides, extreme sports or just by being punched on the head from behind. It is also associated with shaken baby syndrome.

The incidence of whiplash injury worldwide is around 3.8 cases per 1000 population a year. Economic cost in the US ranges from $3.9 billion to $29 billion per year.


In the first few days of vehicular injury, the person may feel gradually increasing pain and stiffness mainly on the posterior part of the neck. These symptoms can also radiate to the head, shoulder and/or arms. If discomfort is felt, medical consult must be done to prevent further injury. Problems in the bowels and bladder are also severe indications of this injury.

Confirmation of whiplash injury can be seen in imaging tests such as the CT scan or MRI depending if the bones, muscles and/or ligaments are affected.


Certain first-aid procedures can be done if whiplash injury is suspected.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen (up to 1.8g daily), Acetaminophen (up to 4g daily), and Mefenamic acid (up to 1.5g daily) until the pain is relieved. These adult dosages should not be taken all at once and must be in divided doses and intervals. If allergic reactions occurred, intake must be discontinued.
  • Applying ice over the affected neck area (or where the pain is felt the strongest) for the first 48-72 hours. Thereafter, a warm compress or a warm bath can help reduce the inflammation.
  • To reduce the pain and swelling, reducing body movements or physical activity should be done. Slow ROM exercises can be performed to reduce spasms and promote good circulation. A physical therapist can also assist you on these proper stretching exercises.
  • A gentle massage on the area can soothe the pain. Never apply deep pressure on the affected area to prevent further injury.
  • Maintaining a good posture and keeping the back supported can also be done. Also, sleeping on a firm bed mattress without a pillow or a neck pillow can help normalize the shape of the neck.
  • When discomfort is more frequent, a soft neck collar can be used to relieve the discomfort but only for a short period of time as it may cause immobility of the area.

If the whiplash injury is severe and the pain lasted for more than six weeks, medical consult and maybe surgical intervention can be done, most especially when the intervertebral discs in the spine are affected or herniated.1 Radiofrequency neurotomy had promising results of reducing the chronic pain caused by this injury.

Chances on the recovery from whiplash injury are high, with only around 6-18% of them suffering permanent disability.


When driving, traffic regulations must be conformed all the time.5 Head rests in your vehicle can help reduce neck injuries from Missouri car accidents.  It should be positioned properly according to height.

If whiplash injury had been experienced, regular and proper ROM exercises on the neck with guided medical consult can reduce the chance of the discomfort from coming back.

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