Overview on whiplash

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Whiplash occurs if the head is driven backward and forward abruptly with significant force. The injury is likely to occur after a rear-end vehicular collision. It can also be caused by sports injuries, physical abuse or riding amusement park rides.

This injury occurs if the soft tissues in the neck are extended beyond their normal range of motion. The symptoms might not be present for a while; thus, it is vital to pay close attention to any physical changes for a few days after an accident. Even though it is believed to be a mild condition, whiplash can cause long-standing discomfort and pain.

What are the causes?

The treatment for whiplash are relatively simple. The doctor often prescribes an over-the-counter pain medication.

Some of the usual causes of whiplash include:

  • Vehicular accidents
  • Cycling accidents
  • Physical abuse
  • Horseback riding
  • Contact sports such as boxing, football and karate
  • Direct blow to the head from a heavy object
  • Falls where the head is violently jerked backward

What are the indications?

The symptoms typically arise within 24 hours after the accident responsible for the whiplash. Oftentimes, the symptoms might arise after a few days and can last for several weeks.

The common symptoms might include:

  • Headaches, specifically at the base of the skull
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive weariness

The uncommon symptoms linked with a chronic case include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Issues with memory and concentration
  • Irritability
  • Inability to sleep well
  • Chronic pain in the shoulders, neck or head


The treatment for whiplash are relatively simple. The doctor often prescribes an over-the-counter pain medication. As for severe injuries, prescription pain medications and muscle relaxants are given to reduce the muscle spasms.

Aside from medications, physical therapy has a vital role in the recovery process. The application of ice or heat on the affected area and simple exercises can help build-up strength and flexibility in the neck. It is vital to observe good posture and learn relaxation techniques to prevent straining of the neck muscles and help with the recovery process.

A foam collar should be used to keep the neck stable. The collars should not be used for more than 3 hours at a time. They are ideally used during the initial few days after the injury.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on whiplash is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this type of head injury, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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