Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly forced forward and
then snapped backward (or vice versa), as might happen in a car accident or
sports injury or while being shaken. This may cause stretching or tears
(sprains) of muscles and ligaments in the neck.
Neck pain caused
by minor whiplash usually improves within 3 months with home treatment. More
severe whiplash may take longer but usually improves in 6 to 12 months with
occasional continuing pain.
Symptoms of whiplash are pain and
stiffness in the neck for a few days following a whiplash incident. Symptoms
may go away but then return a few days later. Pain and stiffness may affect
muscles in the head, chest, shoulders, and arms.
Pain in the
shoulders or arms, when moving the head, or pain that returns after going away
for a few days, may be a sign of a more serious neck injury.
Symptoms of whiplash may be relieved with over-the-counter pain relievers
(such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and by avoiding activities, such
as lifting or sports, that make the pain and stiffness worse. If pain persists
or is intense, the doctor may prescribe pain medicines and recommend a soft
neck collar to support the neck.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.