What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck. Whiplash is also called neck sprain or neck
strain. It is characterized by a collection of symptoms that occur following
damage to the neck, usually because of sudden extension and flexion. The
disorder commonly occurs as the result of an automobile accident and may include
injury to intervertebral joints, discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles, and
nerve roots. Symptoms such as neck pain may be present directly after the injury
or may be delayed for several days. In addition to neck pain, other symptoms may
- neck stiffness,
- injuries to the muscles and ligaments (myofascial
- abnormal sensations such as burning or prickling
- shoulder or back pain.
In addition, some people experience
cognitive, somatic, or psychological conditions such as:
- memory loss,
- concentration impairment,
- sleep disturbances,
Is there any treatment for whiplash?
Treatment for individuals with whiplash may include pain medications,
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and a
cervical collar (usually worn for 2 to 3 weeks). Range of motion exercises,
physical therapy, and cervical traction may also be prescribed. Supplemental
heat application may relieve muscle tension.
What is the prognosis for whiplash?
Generally, prognosis for individuals with whiplash is good. The neck and head
pain clears within a few days or weeks. Most patients recover within 3 months
after the injury, however, some may continue to have residual neck pain and
What research is being done for whiplash?
The NINDS (National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke) conducts
and supports research on trauma-related disorders such as whiplash. Much of this
research focuses on increasing scientific understanding of these disorders and
finding ways to prevent and treat them.
Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.
Last Editorial Review: 1/4/2008
Source: National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov)