Do You Have Whiplash?

Do You Have Whiplash

If you have recently been in an accident that caused your neck to jolt back and forth rapidly, you may be wondering if you have whiplash. Unfortunately, whiplash is a relatively common injury that can occur as a result of the neck being forcefully jolted backward and forward, like a whip. Whiplash can be caused by any activity that results in this motion, but it is most commonly caused by being rear ended, amusement park rides, or sports related injuries. Although whiplash is considered to be a mild condition, it can cause pain and discomfort for an extended period of time. Symptoms association with whiplash can occur immediately after the injury or several days later and can include: 

Diagram showing the motion that causes whiplash

Neck Stiffness and Pain

This is by far the most common symptom of whiplash, and is usually the predominant symptom that causes people to seek treatment. Neck stiffness and pain indicate that the discs, ligaments, muscles, or nerves are damaged in your neck. Oftentimes, this stiffness is also accompanied by a decreased range of motion, as well as pain that gets worse when you try to move your neck in certain directions. 


The muscles at the base of the neck are responsible for causing headaches. These headaches can occur at the base of the neck, as well as above the eyes. Both locations indicate muscle tension or injury in the upper neck. When headaches begin after an event that jolted the neck, they are usually an indication of whiplash. In some cases, headaches may also be accompanied by difficulty concentrating and memory problems, as well as blurred vision and ear ringing. However, if you hit your head during an accident these symptoms can also indicate a possible concussion. 

Shoulder Pain

Although whiplash does not affect your shoulders directly, your shoulders are still in close proximity to your neck. This means that when the muscles or structures in your neck are affected by whiplash, they may place additional pressure on your shoulder, upper arms, and  upper back muscles. Additionally, some muscles span from the neck down into the shoulders, upper arm, and upper back. Ultimately this can cause pain in these structures as well. In addition to pain, some cases of whiplash can also cause numbness and tingling in the arms, especially if a nerve has been damaged or compressed. 

woman having her neck stretched in physical therapy

Luckily, there are a few different ways to resolve pain and discomfort caused by whiplash, such as over the counter pain medications and applying ice or heat to the area. Additionally, chiropractic care and physical therapy have also been used to successfully treat whiplash by decreasing the severity of symptoms. Having a chiropractic adjustment can help align the structures properly, while physical and massage therapy can ease soft tissue tension. 

In most cases, whiplash responds well to treatment and symptoms will usually subside within 2-3 weeks after they begin. In some cases, pain and discomfort can linger for longer amounts of time. The best way to prevent this from happening is to seek treatment for whiplash right away. Once whiplash has been treated and has healed, most cases do not cause future problems. However, multiple whiplash injuries can increase the risk of future complications such as arthritis or chronic neck pain. 

Dr. Clouthier has obtained numerous certifications in various healing techniques such as Nutrition Response Testing, Acupuncture, NueroEmotional Technique, CranioSacral Therapy, and NeuroModulation Technique. He has also taken over 1000 hours in post-graduate training in nutritional and herbal therapies and functional medicine and is currently pursuing an advanced certification from the Institute for Functional Medicine

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