Risk factors for poor outcome or longer recovery include being:
An older woman
In a truck
Hit by a moving object
Hit head-on or perpendicular
Involved in litigation
Affected with severe pain or radicular symptoms
The symptoms usually develop over the several hours after the injury. Within 24 hours of the symptoms tend to reach their peak.
Numbness or tingling
Shoulder pain and stiffness
Decreased range of neck motion
Pain, numbness, or tingling extending down an arm
The doctor will ask about your symptoms. You will be asked how the injury occurred. A physical exam will be done. Although most whiplash injuries do not show up on imaging tests, your doctor may choose to order some tests to make sure that no other injuries.
Tests may include:
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures in the neck, especially bones
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the bony structures inside the neck
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of bony and soft tissue structures inside the neck
—a test that uses dye to better see structures in the neck
Electrodiagnostic testing—also known as EMG, test muscles
Heat or ice packs—Talk with your doctor about using heat or ice to relieve muscle tension and pain. Wrap the heat or ice pack in a towel. Never place it directly on the skin.
Medications—These may include:
Neck (cervical) collar—This may be given for short-term or occasional use. It will depend upon the extent of injury.
Current belief is that a better recovery can result from earlier activity including:
Physical therapy—therapy and modalities may help strengthen neck muscles and improve neck motion; exercises may begin within two days of injury
There is some evidence of the effect of the following:
Chiropractic—manipulation of the spine done by a chiropractor
Cervical facet injections
Pulsed magnetic field treatment
If you are diagnosed with whiplash, follow your doctor's
There are no guidelines for preventing whiplash. It often occurs due to an unexpected event.
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Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult
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Primary Care Medicine
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Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice
. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby-Year Book; 1998.
Verhagen AP. Scholten-Peeters GG. van Wijngaarden S. de Bie RA. Bierma-Zeinstra SM. Conservative treatments for whiplash.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a