How Do I Know if I Have Whiplash?

By: Glen Wieland


Whiplash, as it is commonly called, is not actually a medical term. Instead, doctors refer to it as a hyperextension/hyperflexion injury, which involves the head whipping violently back and forth, injuring the neck’s soft tissue. The back-and-forth trauma of a whiplash injury can damage the spine, discs, ligaments, muscles and tendons in the neck. This type of injury can occur in a car accident or even on the football field. Any fan of the high-contact sport has seen football players’ heads thrown violently forward and back during a hard hit by a defender.

Most often, whiplash injuries are caused by rear-end automobile collisions, which are reported to be the most prevalent type of traffic accident in the U.S. according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other causes included sports accidents and physical abuse or other forms of trauma. Many boxers and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters also frequently suffer from whiplash in organized fighting events. Let us examine a few symptoms of this painful and serious injury.  

Symptoms of a Whiplash

If you are involved in a car or sports accident, or any other trauma that has left you with neck pain, see your doctor immediately. Though it may just be a muscle sprain it is never worth the risk of forgoing treatment.

Whiplash symptoms that may emerge within 48 hours of the injury include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness, with limited range of motion
  • Shoulder pain, lower back pain, arm and hand pain, jaw pain
  • Headaches and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Blurred vision, dizziness and nausea
  • Irritability, trouble sleeping and fatigue
  • Trouble swallowing

Diagnosing Treatment

Again, it is very important to have a physical exam by your doctor to help determine what, if any, injuries exist in the neck after any form of trauma. The doctor will check your range of motion and note any limitations to the norm, also checking your reflexes and muscle strength. X-rays of the neck may be taken as they can identify fractures but cannot detect injuries to the muscles, ligaments, tendons and intervertebral discs.  Evaluating the soft tissues would require more specialized imaging such as an MRI or CT scan.

Controlling pain and restoring range of motion are the goals. Treatment can include:

  • Rest
  • Pain medications and muscle relaxants
  • Heat or ice, applied to the neck for 15 minutes up to six times a day
  • A cervical collar for two to three weeks
  •  Physical therapy
  • Injection therapy  

If you, a friend or a loved one are unfortunately injured as a result of an auto accident or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Wieland, Hilado & DeLattre, P.A. at (407) 841-7699.  For additional resources, keep checking our blog, LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more helpful hints and to always be informed about best practices in law.


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