Whiplash/Injuries to Spine


Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck and surrounding musculature and tissues. It is also referred to as neck strain or sprain, or flexion-extension injury, and is most often caused by rear-end or “T-bone” type motor vehicle accidents. It occurs when the neck is forcibly extended and/or flexed similar to a whip. The sharp and sudden movement of the head and neck causes strain to the neck muscles and surrounding soft tissues and in some cases, injury to the spinal vertebrae, joints, discs, ligaments, and nerves. In some cases, a whiplash injury results in damage to the spinal cord or brain.

Symptoms can develop immediately at the time of the injury, or over the course of several hours or days. Often, people will leave an accident thinking they escaped injury, only to wake up the following day suffering any or all of the following symptoms:

  • neck pain and stiffness
  • difficulty moving neck
  • headache
  • radiating pain — often to the upper limb or shoulder
  • tingling or numbness in arms and/or legs
  • muscle weakness
  • jaw pain
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

Recovery from a whiplash injury can be slow, and in some cases, can develop into a chronic pain condition that involves ongoing pain, disability, fatigue and psychological symptoms. Timely diagnosis and treatment is the best defense against permanent symptoms.