What is a Whiplash?


Driver Suffering From Whiplash After Traffic Collision

Whiplash is injuries of the neck caused by a sudden and violent jolting of the neck in one direction to the other. The action is similar to that of a whip, hence the generic term whiplash. An example happens in a vehicular accident. Upon impact of the vehicle to another vehicle or object, the passenger’s neck will have a sudden backward-then-forward movement, resulting in whiplash. Although motor vehicle accidents are the most common causes of whiplash, it may also come from falls, work injuries, sports injuries and other similar incidents.

Effects of Whiplash

Whiplash usually results in the sprain of the neck. The ligaments surrounding the vertebrae are torn or sprained. These ligaments are what protect, support and prevent excessive movement of the vertebrae beyond their normal limits. Facet joints, the joints at the back of the spine, are particularly prone to whiplash injury. In a whiplash, the muscles and tendons are likewise strained. The disks between the vertebrae may be torn also, potentially resulting to herniation. Additionally, the nerve roots between vertebral bones maybe strained and become inflamed. Extreme cases of vertebral bones fracturing also do occur in a whiplash.

Treatment of Whiplash

It may sound strange but staying active is one of the important aspects in the management of whiplash. The only exception to this is when the patient’s injuries render him immobile.  The patient should not be worried that his condition will aggravate with more movements, provided he exercises normal caution and follows the doctor’s advice on the limits of physical exercises and stretching he can do. It is important to adhere to the program that the doctor will prescribe to achieve the best results towards healing.

Application of ice or heat, or both is commonly done to help alleviate pain and reduce spasm that result from the injury. Other techniques used in physical therapy may help but they should not be relied upon to completely replace a program of physical activity, exercise and stretching.

Chiropractic treatment employing spinal manipulations and mobilization has been found to be effective in providing relief from pain for the patient in many cases.


Whiplash, being a result or effect of an accident that we do not have control over, cannot be prevented.

We can, however, do a few actions that may help mitigate or minimize the effects of whiplash. In a motor vehicle, always wear body-restraining lap or shoulder belts and adjust headrest to the appropriate position. Wear necessary personal protective equipment or gears at work and in contact and extreme sports.

Knowledge of injuries is helpful to guide us in coping with them when we encounter them personally ourselves, or in our family. It is important to seek professional help in these instances for the most effective treatment program and let you go through the trauma positively.