ZocdocAnswersWhat is whiplash?

Question

What is whiplash?

I was rear ended in a car accident with my friend. Its been two days and my neck is starting to get sore. Do I have whiplash? What exactly is it? Does it hurt your neck muscles or your spine?

Answer

It sounds like you may have a whiplash injury. Whiplash is a common condition referring to injuries of the soft tissue of the neck associated with a sudden extension motion usually when the car is hit in the rear. It is also common in other sports related injuries (i.e. skiing, roller coaster or any other mechanism where the neck gets hyperextended). It is believed that such sudden high force causes injuries to the anterior ligaments of the spine. In addition to neck ache and upper back pain, you can also experience symptoms such as pins and needles (paresthesia) in the shoulders, arms, and sometimes legs. Headaches are also common. The diagnosis is mainly through a patient's medical history and physical examination. Your physician may also want to do some imaging, such as x-ray of the cervical spine to rule out fractures or instability of the spine related to the ligamentous injuries. Treatments for this injury may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), a soft cervical collar, range of motion exercises and sometimes physical therapy. It is very important for you to see a doctor about your symptoms. She or he can further evaluate and make sure that you do not have any other injuries.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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