Whiplash is a specific type of neck injury caused by sudden strain to the neck. Car accidents (such as being rear-ended) are the most common cause of whiplash, as sudden impact can force the neck beyond its ability, resulting in tissue injury.
Whiplash symptoms are sometimes felt immediately, and sometimes they show up days later; the pain can range from mild to severe. Whiplash can also lead to other symptoms, like headache, back pain, stiffness, muscle ache, and dizziness. Symptoms such as sleep disturbances and memory loss may also occur.
Depending on the extent of the pain, whiplash can be treated either with simple home care techniques or more intense medical treatment. For moderate whiplash, applying ice or heat, doing range-of-motion exercises under the guidance of a physician and physical therapist, as well as resting the muscles, can help relieve pain. Severe whiplash may require prescription pain medication, physical therapy, the use of a neck brace—or some combination of these treatments.
Whiplash pain typically subsides within a few days or weeks, but severe damage to the neck can sometimes result in ongoing pain. If you are experiencing severe pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms, or if moving your head is painful, make an appointment to see your doctor.