What are the injuries resulting from Whiplash Trauma?

Whiplash injuries can manifest in a wide variety of ways including, neck pain, fatigue, upper back and shoulder pain, cognitive change similar to concussion and lower back pain. Due to numerous factors playing into the overall whiplash trauma it is impossible to predict the pattern of symptom that each individual will suffer. Additionally, whiplash symptoms commonly have a delay in onset often taking weeks or months to present.


Here are a few common conditions suffered from Whiplash Trauma

Neck Pain

It is the single most common complaint in whiplash trauma, being reported by over 90% of patients. Often this pain radiates across the shoulders, up into the head, and down between the shoulder blades. Whiplash injuries tend to affect all of the tissues in the neck, including the facet joints and discs between the vertebrae, as well as all of the muscles, ligaments and nerves.

Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint pain is the most common cause of neck pain following a car accident. Facet joint pain is usually felt on the back of the neck, just to the right or left of center, and is usually tender to the touch. Facet joint pain cannot be visualized on x-rays or MRIs. It can only be diagnosed by physical palpation of the area.

Disc Injury

Disc injury is also a common cause of neck pain; especially chronic pain. The outer wall of the disc (called the anulus) is made up of bundles of fibers that can be torn during a whiplash trauma. These tears, then, can lead to disc degeneration or herniation, resulting in irritation or compression of the nerves running through the area. This compression or irritation commonly leads to radiating pain into the arms, shoulders and upper back, and may result in muscle weakness.

Damage to the muscles and ligaments

Damage to the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back are the major cause of the pain experienced in the first few weeks following a whiplash injury, and is the main reason why you experience stiffness and restricted range of motion. But as the muscles have a chance to heal, they typically don’t cause as much actual pain as they contribute to abnormal movement. Damage to the ligaments often results in abnormal movement and instability.


After neck pain, headaches are the most prevalent complaint among those suffering from whiplash injury, affecting more than 80% of all people. While some headaches are actually the result of direct brain injury, most are related to injury of the muscles, ligaments and facet joints of the cervical spine, which refer pain to the head. Because of this, it is important to treat the supporting structures of your neck in order to help alleviate your headaches.

TMJ Problems

A less common, but very debilitating disorder that results from whiplash is temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). TMJ usually begins as pain, clicking and popping noises in the jaw during movement. If not properly evaluated and treated, TMJ problems can continue to worsen and lead to headaches, facial pain, ear pain and difficulty eating.

Low Back Pain

Although most people consider whiplash to be an injury of the neck, the low back is also commonly injured as well. In fact, low back pain is found in more than half of rear impact-collisions in which injury was reported, and almost three-quarters of all side-impact crashes.


What are common treatments for Whiplash?

Since a whiplash injury is a form of spinal pain, most common in neck, a similar treatment can be used as lumbar pain and neck pain. However, in the initial acute phase of treatment the doctors at Discovery Chiropractic recognize a patient may not be able to handle or tolerate spinal manipulative treatment initially. In the early phases of treatment it is very common to use gentle mobilization and low level laser to ease the symptoms.


What is home care for Whiplash?

At Discovery Chiropractic we believe that regular exercise and stretching can go a long way. If you are in pain there are a few simple things you can try at home to get some relief.


Heat and Ice

Typically if you just start to have pain (within 72 hours) ice would be your choice of home care. Ice helps reduce inflammation. Frequency would be 15 minutes on to cool (not freeze) the area in a given hour.

Once the pain starts to subside try using heat at the same frequency, or you could try using heat for 15 minutes then ice for 15 minutes and nothing for 30 minutes. Remember you only need to cool the area then warm the area. You do not want to burn yourself or cause frost bite.

Movement and Rest

Whenever you are recovering from whiplash it is important to try to stay moving without irritating the area. So this means resting but also getting up and walking. The worst thing you can do is stay in bed all day.