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Whiplash Symptoms & Diagnosis


The symptoms usually develop over the several hours after the injury. Within 24 hours of the symptoms tend to reach their peak.

Symptoms include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Neck pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Decreased range of neck motion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headache
  • 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:

  • Neck x-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures in the neck, especially bones
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the bony structures inside the neck
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of bony and soft tissue structures inside the neck
  • CT myelogram —a test that uses dye to better see structures in the neck
  • Electrodiagnostic testing—also known as EMG, test muscles

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 medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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