A Quick Guide to Whiplash

Whiplash typically occurs to people in car accidents and is caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head and neck. The picture above demonstrates how the head and neck bend and extend when experiencing a bout of whiplash. This injury can ultimately cause damage to muscles and bones of the head and neck, as well as possibly affecting the nervous system.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Numbness/tingling sensation in the upper extremities
  • Headache
  • Arm pain

Why PT can help:

Physical therapists will use a variety of treatment options which may include a hands-on approach, strengthening exercises, and stretches. These techniques will be used to address a patient’s symptoms and promote return to functional activities. People suffering from whiplash should go to physical therapy as soon as possible to prevent a long recovery.

People that face a difficult recovery may risk having:

  • Increased health care costs
  • Decreased work production
  • Decreased earning capacity

Make sure to see your local PT first to start the healing process!


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Pho C, Godges J. Management of Whiplash-Associated Disorder Addressing Thoracic and Cervical Spine Impairments: A Case Report. Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2004;34(9):511-523. https://www.jospt.org/doi/pdf/10.2519/jospt.2004.34.9.511?code=jospt-site. Accessed March 3, 2018.

Wiangkham T, Duda J, Haque S, Madi M, Rushton A. The Effectiveness of Conservative Management for Acute Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) II: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. Plos One [serial online]. July 21, 2015;10(7):e0133415. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 2, 2018.

De Kooning M, Daenen L, Nijs J, et al. Endogenous pain inhibition is unrelated to autonomic responses in acute whiplash-associated disorders. Journal Of Rehabilitation Research And Development [serial online]. 2015;52(4):431-440. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 2, 2018.