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The Unbearable Pain of Whiplash

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Whiplash related image MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

Neck pain arising from out of damage to neck ligaments, tendons and muscles is called whiplash. Whiplash is a non-medical term. Whiplash injuries cover hyperextension injuries of the neck as well as cervical strains and sprains.

Whiplash may occur after sudden jerks the neck may experience during a vehicle accident, a fall, during a sport (especially those that involve forceful contact), repetitive strain or overuse of neck muscles, or any other situation where the neck is moved beyond its normal range of motion or jerked violently.

Whiplash symptoms could include any or a combination of:

• Pain in the neck
• Inflammation of neck muscles
• Difficulty in moving your neck
• Headache
• Tenderness in the neck
• Pain arising from the affected neck are to the ends of the arms (1)

Diagnosis for the specific type of whiplash injury is always made first with a physical examination. This may be followed by an X-ray or CT (computerized tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) depending on the extent of injury the doctor assesses after the physical check up wherein s/he will examine for signs of neck tenderness, bruising, swelling, movement, muscle spasm, etc.

A range of motion test will be advised only if the injury is a minor one. Usually a CT scan or an MRI is recommened for severe cases of neck injury or where there is an involvement of the spine. (2)

Treatment for whiplash depends upon the type of injury incurred. Though there is no specific treatment, most of the management revolves around reducing pain, inflammation and movement to allow for comfort and healing of affected tissues and ligaments.

Painkillers such as Motrin and Aleve, along with topical gels for local application, are also given to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling. Physiotherapy involving heat and cold application, and mild massage aid in recovery. Recovery may take anything from a few weeks to up to three months. (3)

No single treatment has been scientifically proven as effective for whiplash, but pain-relieving medications such as Motrin or Aleve along with gentle exercises, physical therapy traction, massage, heat, ice, injections and ultrasound all have been helpful for certain patients. (4)

Though some physicians may recommend wearing a cervical collar to reduce mobility or chances of impact on the neck, recent studies have shown that encouraging mild but active movements help speed up recovery.

Prevention of whiplash injuries can be practiced by developing good sporting techniques, practicing safe driving techniques, and inculcating a good working, bending, sitting and walking posture.

The discomfort during the healing period can be mitigated by using a neck-supportive pillow designed specifically for this purpose and made available through pharmacists. Light yoga exercises could also aid in improving and strengthening the muscles around the neck.


1. eMedicineHealth.com; Whiplash Symptoms; William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine. August 2010; Web 7 Sept. 2011.

2. NHS Choices; Whiplash - Diagnosis; October 2010. Web 7 Sept. 2011. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Whiplash/Pages/Diagnosis.aspx

3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders And Stroke: NINDS Whiplash Information Page; February 2011; Web 7 Sept. 2011. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/whiplash/whiplash.htm

4. WebMD.com; Pain Management- Whiplash; Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Neuroscience Center; March 2007.Web 7 Sept. 2011. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/pain-management-whiplash


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books

Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1
(Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2)

Mentor Your Mind – Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2 (Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL: http://www.sterlingpublishers.com/search_result.asp)

and the upcoming

The Urban Woman’s Integrated Fitness Guide (Publisher: Hay House India)

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K.

She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health.

Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Please visit www.mamtasingh.com

Reviewed September 8, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments

Please tell me more about this technique-it has been over a year since I was in a car accident and my neck and shoulders still hurt.

July 12, 2012 - 5:39pm

Thank you for sharing the information. I am sure it will help our readers.
Best regards,

September 10, 2011 - 12:20am
EmpowHER Guest

Whiplash can be causes by..."repetitive strain or overuse of neck muscles" Well then, I guess I treat whiplash. I teach the Alexander Technique is New York City. Most of the people that seek out an Alexander teacher come because of neck pain, back pain and bad posture. The Technique gets great results, because when you take some lessons in the Alexander Technique, you change your habits.
Mark Josefsberg- Alexander Technique NYC

September 9, 2011 - 9:36pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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