What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is an injury resulting from rapid forceful movements of the neck of at least moderate intensity, causing a strain to the joints, muscles, nerves, ligaments and/or vertebral discs of the neck region and possibly other areas of the spine. Even low-speed accidents can sometimes cause significant problems.

What causes whiplash?

The injury occurs due to acceleration-deceleration forces acting on the neck that causes the vertebrae to be suddenly flexed or extended one way then the other. This is typically due to force applied from behind or from the side, and might be from a motor vehicle collision (most common), sporting accident or even from a roller-coaster. It is worth mentioning, however, that in some circumstances no injury or pain results at all.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms may appear instantly, or they may come on slowly within 24 hours of impact, or they may even take several days to come on.

Symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, often starting at the base of the skull
  • Shoulder pain, upper back pain or arm pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Poor tolerance of normal work postures
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Some people also experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems or fogginess
  • Depression


The recovery timeframe usually varies from days to months. In some cases, people may still be experiencing either constant or occasional problems from their whiplash injury years down the track, however, this is most common in those that don’t seek, or have access to, appropriate treatment.

Recovery rates may be influenced by factors including age and the severity of the initial injury. Whiplash does have a high rate of recovery. Research shows that those experiencing whiplash-related symptoms who return to their normal daily activities quickly will tend to experience a shorter duration of impairment from painful symptoms.


It is important to seek prompt professional advice when suspecting whiplash to obtain a diagnosis and to rule out concussion, fractures or any other relevant tissue damage. You may or may not need to be sent for an x-ray or CT scan.

The goals of treatment are to control pain, restore normal movement, re-strengthen muscles, and return you to your normal daily activities as soon as possible. Pain-relieving medications may also be prescribed by your doctor to assist with the discomfort as needed.

Staying active is important. Do as many of your normal activities as possible. Plan gradual increases in exercise levels so that you can successfully return to full participation in your regular activities, hobbies or sports. An injury will cause pain, however, it is important to understand that any discomfort associated with treatment and the recovery period does not automatically suggest that there is a further injury. Some limitations may be noticed in regard to your usual work and recreational activities during the early to mid-stages of recovery. This is normal and should resolve in time.

If you think you might be suffering from this condition, please give us a call and we’ll be able to provide the correct treatment option for you.