What are the Different Types of Whiplash Injury?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2020
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Whiplash is a condition most often occurring during a car accident or any other situation where the neck is thrust forward suddenly. There are a variety of symptoms related to whiplash, most commonly occurring in the neck and back. To determine the type and severity of a whiplash injury, those who have been involved in an automobile accident should be seen by a doctor.

Generally, whiplash injury is caused by the neck muscles and tendons being exerted in a manner that the neck was not designed to withstand. This results in spraining and tearing to the soft tissues in the neck. Most times, whiplash injury results in a soreness and stiffness in the neck. The amount of discomfort experienced will depend on the overall severity of neck strain.

In some cases, the back can also be involved in a whiplash injury. If the force is strong enough, the muscles in the back may be stretched farther than they are generally able to go. This can result in a severe backache, sprains, and muscle tears in the upper or lower back. Since back related whiplash generally comes from a severe circumstance, the pain is generally much worse than when the injury is confined to the neck.


Many times, symptoms from a whiplash injury take up to 24 hours to appear. This means that even those who think they've escaped an accident unharmed may experience pain later on. For this reason, anyone who is in a moderate to severe accident should seek medical attention. The doctor may be able to recognize neck and back injuries before symptoms are present, and offer treatment options based on the severity of injury. To determine the severity of an whiplash injury, doctors may look at a patient's responsiveness, the amount of pain experience, tenderness experienced, and function of the arm and leg muscles.

Whiplash is generally treated with braces to limit the amount of movement of the neck and back, as well as with prescription pain relievers. In some very severe cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized in order to closely monitor any symptoms and to allow the neck and back to heal. Very rarely and in severe cases only, the bones, spinal cord, or other areas of the spine may be injured. In these cases, additional medical treatment may be necessary.

Even those who are involved in a mild crash may develop whiplash symptoms. Those who begin to notice pain in the neck, swelling, pain that radiates into the arms or back, dizziness, headaches, or vision changes should seek medical care immediately. This could signal a whiplash or related injury, even if the crash or accident was not serious.


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