Whiplash is an injury that affects the cervical spine. It is most commonly associated with car accidents, especially slow speed rear impacts, although it can happen with front impact accidents too. Rarely, people can get whiplash from sports injuries, or even being bumped into in a crowd. The effects of whiplash can last for a few days, or even up to years.


Whiplash is caused when the head and neck are thrown back and forth. When a person in a stopped car is hit from behind by another car, even one going slowly, there is a transfer of energy. That transfer causes the vertebrae in the lower part of the neck to over extend, while the upper vertebrae over flexes. This action causes the spine in the neck to be S shaped. It causes stress on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the neck, and can cause micro fractures in the vertebrae of the neck. The reason that whiplash shows up more in low speed accidents is because they don’t activate the car’s crush zone. The crush or crumple zone is designed to deform to absorb the energy of the crash. However, the cars have to be going above a certain speed for them to work. A low speed impact of under 20 MPH isn’t enough.

Whiplash doesn’t show up on X-rays, as it is primarily a soft tissue injury. It is diagnosed by the examination by a medical professional, and reports of symptoms by the patient. However, the doctor might order X-rays just to rule out some other injury. If the effects of whiplash go on for longer than 6 weeks to 2 months a doctor might recommend an MRI, since they are better are showing soft tissue injuries.

Whiplash is generally treated by rest and patience. Treatment usually consists of using hot or cold packs on the neck and shoulder to reduce inflammation, as well as taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen sodium. Since it is, at least partly, a muscle strain, it is important to rest so that the muscles have time to heal themselves. Most doctors suggest taking a break from strenuous activity like exercising for up to a week. Wearing a soft cervical collar for a few days is also a good idea. It can help support the head and neck during the healing process. Many people have gotten relief from the effects of whiplash by visiting a chiropractor.

What Are The Effects of Whiplash?

The most common symptom of whiplash is pain and stiffness in the neck. It can also cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and shoulder pain. Other effects of whiplash are pain in the jaw, as well as in the arms. It can also cause a person to have some visual disturbances as well has experience ringing in their ears. It can take several months for the effects to completely resolve. Some people might have different effects happen sporadically even after they are mostly healed. However, if they don’t resolve themselves in a timely manner, then it could be chronic whiplash syndrome or whiplash associated disorder.

On top of having the lingering regular effects of whiplash, chronic whiplash syndrome includes things like depression, anger, anxiety and stress. Because the person is still having pain in their necks, backs, shoulders and arms, among other places, while they are dealing with these other problems, they can also end up with a dependence on drugs. It doesn’t have to be illegal drugs, it could be prescription medicine that they end up dependent on, things that they were prescribed to deal with the pain. People might also feel isolated because they are in pain and can’t do as much as they could before. They may also feel frustrated because they don’t have the answers to why they still hurt and how to deal with it.

Whiplash is a painful injury. It is usually short term, but can, in some cases, go on for years. People don’t always take the time they need to heal from it because they don’t feel like it is a real injury. It is important that a person give themselves enough time to heal from the effects of whiplash.