Whiplash, or neck strain, occurs when there is a forceful and fast back-and-forth movement of the neck, almost like a whip cracking. The sudden force can injure bones in the spine as well as muscles and tendons in the neck. Most cases of whiplash occur due to car accidents, but it can also occur as a result of physical abuse, contact sports injuries (such as football and hockey), or other incidents. Symptoms typically develop within a day of the injury and can include neck pain, limited range of neck motion, headaches, pain in the shoulder, numbness in the arm, fatigue, and dizziness. Some individuals may even have blurred vision, sleep disturbance, memory problems, or depression.
Whiplash injuries usually heal on their own and most people with whiplash will recover in a few months. However, some people continue to have problems for years after the injury. Your doctor may even recommend treating the pain and complications of whiplash with ice, pain medication, a neck brace, a massage, or therapy. Doctors typically diagnose whiplash with a physical exam along with images of the neck using X-rays, CT scans and an MRI. If you have been diagnosed with whiplash, talk to your doctor about the treatment plan that is best for you.