Whiplash is a general non-medical term used to describe pain and symptoms to the neck after a sudden jolting or forced type movement to the head and or neck. It is often referred to as a forced flexion-extension injury and is most commonly caused by a car accident.
Whiplash refers to injuries sustained to the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the neck which are collectively referred to as soft-tissue injuries. Whiplash occurs when the soft tissues are subjected to a force that takes them beyond the normal range of motion causing damage to the tissues involved.
Although the most common cause of whiplash is a car accident other causes include:
- Sudden blows to the head causing unprotected movement of the neck. This can occur in contact sports, falls or even an assault.
- Sudden changes in the direction of head and neck movement can also occur on roller coaster type rides, sporting accidents and even sudden braking without an impact.
- Whiplash injuries sustained during car accidents are not related to the speed of the accident and may be caused by relatively low speeds.
- Pain and stiffness are classic symptoms which are typically made worse by movement.
- Reduced range of spinal movement due to pain, muscular spasm and stiffness.
- Pain, ache and tenderness over the top and back of the shoulders (trapezius muscles)
- Headache is common.
- Symptoms may take several days to fully develop after the incident