(Cervical Sprain and Neck Muscle Strain)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Whiplash is a soft tissue neck injury that can include:
Whiplash can occur with any sudden, violent, backward jerk of the head or neck.
Factors that may increase your chance of whiplash include:
Symptoms often develop in the hours after the injury although they can also develop in the days after the injury.
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Most whiplash injuries do not show up on imaging tests. Your doctor may order some tests to make sure that no other injuries have occurred.
Neck images may be taken to look for further damage. Images may be taken with:
An electromyogram may also be done to test for nerve damage.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:
There are no current guidelines for preventing whiplash. It often occurs due to an unexpected event.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Cervical spine injury. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated January 8, 2015. Accessed January 22, 2015.
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Conlin A, Bhogal S, et al. Treatment of whiplash-associated disorders--part II: Medical and surgical interventions. Pain Research & Management. 10(1):33-40, 2005.
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Neck sprain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 2013. Accessed June 2, 2016.
NINDS whiplash information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 3, 2015. Accessed June 2, 2016.
Verhagen AP, Scholten-Peeters GG, et al. Conservative treatments for whiplash. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (2):CD003338, 2007.
Walton DM, Macdermid JC, Giorgianni AA, et al. Risk factors for persistent problems following acute whiplash injury: update of a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013;43(2):31-43.
Last reviewed May 2018 by Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 6/16/2015
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