What To Know About Whiplash: Symptoms And Treatment

Have you been feeling pain in your neck for several days after an accident? Do you have chronic headaches or pain spreading to your shoulders? You could be suffering from the neck injury known as whiplash.


Whiplash occurs when the head and neck experience hyper-extension followed by hyper-flexion. In other words, when your head and neck move backward then forward rapidly. This drastic change in motion causes the neck ligaments and tendons to stretch or tear, causing obvious discomfort and pain. It often occurs from an accident or specific incident in which the head is struck by an intense force, causing a change in direction.

When Do You Get Whiplash?

A common source of whiplash injuries are motor vehicle accidents. When a car is rear ended, the driver may experience whiplash as they are forced forward then brought to an abrupt stop. The sharp movements can cause the head to jerk forward, stretching the neck ligaments beyond comfort.

Rear end collisions are not the only source of whiplash. It can come from any impact to the head, which can occur in contact sports like football, wrestling, or karate; physical abuse or being hit by a heavy object; falling and jerking the neck. Any kind of force that causes the head and neck to violently move backward then forward can lead to whiplash.

Symptoms of Whiplash

The symptoms of whiplash are hard to overlook. The stretching of the neck ligaments will cause pain in the neck, which leads to stiffness and tightness. Mobility may feel restricted, and there will be difficulty and discomfort in moving the head side to side or up and down. Other symptoms include:

These are common symptoms of whiplash and may be experienced early on. More severe conditions of whiplash may cause the following symptoms. If so, a doctor or physician should be visited immediately:

Any numbness or tingling sensations should require a doctor’s attention immediately.

Treatment Options*

Fortunately, many cases of whiplash will heal themselves within a certain amount of time. Certain procedures should be taken to ensure a quick and healthy recovery. Whiplash should be treated immediately.

Mild accidents can be treated with over-the-counter drugs (OTC) and ice treatments. Ice should be applied for the first 24 hours and the net 2-3 days to reduce any swelling. After the icing period, moist heat may be applied to the injured area to relax the muscles.

Movement should also begin early on. Light, simple exercises such as walking can help loosen the tight muscles and increase flexibility again. Physical therapy and osteopathic treatment help for a quick recovery and prevent long-term injuries.

What to Avoid During Recovery

While ice should be applied for the first 2-3 days, anything longer than that may cause further damage and prevent recovery. Similarly, applying heat too early may prevent the swelling from going down and cause further inflammation of the ligaments and tissue.

Another thing to avoid while recovering is being stationary. While there may still be discomfort in the neck, light exercises and movements will help the muscles stretch and loosen, relieving some pain. Remaining still will maintain the tightness and prevent recovery. Returning to a normal routine helps encourage small movements.

Avoid physically straining activities that could cause further strain to the injured area. No sharp movements should be taken that could risk further damage to the ligaments or tissue.

How Long Does Recovery Take?*

For several cases of whiplash, the symptoms resolve within a few months. However, the more severe the injury, the longer the recovery may take. Additionally, symptoms may leave for a period of time, then return. If this occurs, a doctor should be visited immediately.

How the Osteopathic Wellness Center Can Help

Whiplash can occur to anyone who experiences a sharp movement of the head and neck. Treatment should be sought immediately to ensure a quick recovery.

At the Osteopathic Wellness Center, our on-hand techniques can help you recover quickly from your whiplash. We not only address the pain in the neck area, but take concern for the back and thoracic cage with simple exercises. Our goal is to help you feel healthy and restored. Osteopathic treatments comfortably and assuredly help bring normal flexibility back to your body, relieving it of any unnecessary pain.

In addition, we provide you with exercises that can be done at home to ease the pain and help you towards a quick recovery.* For further information about whiplash, please visit: https://osteopathicwellness.net/conditions-we-treat/whiplash/.

*The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Osteopathic Wellness Center does not guarantee certain results.

Dr. David Johnston Dr. David Johnston is a licensed, board certified osteopathic physician with more than twenty years experience working with infants, children, and adults. He pursued his childhood dream of becoming a physician and currently has a successful private practice in Ridgefield, CT.

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