Whiplash is a type of neck injury caused by sudden backward/forward motion of the head. The abrupt motion can cause the joints, spinal discs, nerve roots, and muscles of the neck to become damaged. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries that can result after a car accident and is caused by the impact of the crash itself or the resulting force of being in a vehicle that must come to a full stop within seconds.

Even minor accidents may cause whiplash if the vehicle must come to a full, sudden stop. Rear-end collisions are the most likely to cause whiplash injuries due to the extreme force that one vehicle brings with it when it collides into another. This level of force is pushed directly into the car seats which jolts any occupants’ heads forward then backward suddenly. Head rests may help lessen the jolting motion when going backwards, but by that time, most of the damage will already be dealt to the spine.

Whiplash is a complex injury and involves an unpredictable combination of nerve damage, muscle damage, joint damage, and connective tissue disruption. An x-ray alone cannot usually diagnose these types of injuries, and everyone will experience symptoms differently. Someone who has had multiple prior back and neck injuries, for example, may experience whiplash symptoms that are exponentially more severe and life-impacting than someone who hasn’t. This isn’t always true, however.

Whiplash is dangerous since its symptoms may have a delayed effect after the crash or initial impact which caused the damage. It’s common for emergency response teams to immediately ask car crash victims if they are experiencing any back or neck pain, but whiplash may not cause a victim to feel pain right away. Adrenaline, which is quite common after a traumatic event like a car accident, may mask pain. New symptoms may also develop as the nerves, muscles, and discs settle after the initial force.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

It’s vital for victims of car wrecks to be follow up with their own doctors after an accident and the initial medical assessment. The symptoms of whiplash may begin to occur days, weeks, or even months after the initial accident.

Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Neck pain and stiffness (this is the most common symptom and reported by 90% of patients)
  • Sudden, severe headaches that often start without warning
  • Lower back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • Difficulty focusing, remembering, or concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Pain or numbness in the arms or hands
  • Irritability

If you or someone you love was suffered injury in a car accident within the past weeks or months and you notice any of the above symptoms (especially in combination with one another), you should speak to your doctor immediately. They could be a sign pinpointing that something more serious is going on within your back, neck, or even brain. Whiplash can have serious implications on your overall health. Studies have shown that whiplash may lead to spine, nerve, or disc damage or even brain injury.

With proper care, most minor whiplash injuries heal within 6-9 months. Serious whiplash injuries, however, may cause victims to suffer from pain and weakness for years after an accident. Since these injuries are complex in nature, they often require special medical care and the aid of specialists in neck and back pain.

We are here for you!

At Kauai Therapy & Wellness we specialize in treating neck, shoulder pain/injury with our team of Doctors of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Medical Massage Therapy. 

If you would like to reach out to us: 

Phone:208-209-9559 Email: [email protected]


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