Medicine & Whiplash

Medicine & Whiplash

Whiplash is a relatively common injury that occurs to a person’s neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force, most commonly from motor vehicle accidents. The term “whiplash” was first used in 1928. The term “railway spine” was used to describe a similar condition that was common in persons involved in train accidents prior to 1928. The term “whiplash injury” describes damage to both the bone structures and soft tissues, while “whiplash associated disorders” describes a more severe and chronic condition.


Home care is intended to relieve the pain and minimize the amount of inflammation in the soft tissues of the neck.

  • Apply ice to the neck for 20 minutes at a time each hour for the first 24 hours while awake. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Place a towel between the ice and the neck. Continue to use ice therapy until the pain stops. (After you see the doctor, follow his or her directions for ice therapy.)
  • Whiplash treatment requires much time and patience and almost always involves physiotherapy, but may also include yoga, light exercise and meditation. Chiropractors are specialists in non-surgical spinal treatments, and they can help identify the source of your pain. Once the source has been determined, the process of treating your body and returning it to full health can begin.
  • Whiplash associated disorders (WAD) are often referred to as pain of unclear origin since, by definition, afflicted patients present with symptoms that cannot be identified by imaging or electrophysiological techniques.


  • Occasionally, disc herniation or skeletal injury of the spine may exist in addition to the soft tissue injury that cannot be captured on MRI.
  • Whiplash is the most common traffic injury, leads to neck pain, headache and other symptoms, resulting in a significant burden of disability and health care utilization. Although there are few effective treatments for whiplash, a growing body of evidence suggests that the type and intensity of treatment received shortly after the injury have a long-lasting influence on the prognosis.
  • The authors of the article noted that a previous study had shown that 26 of 28 patients, or 93 percent, of patients with chronic whiplash benefited from chiropractic care.
  • If there is pain when the patient moves their head or the pain involves shoulders or arms, the doctor may recommend a soft neck collar or short-term prescription drug to relax the muscles.

For severe pain, doctors often prescribe anti-inflammatory painkillers or muscle relaxants. Applying ice to the injured area to reduce pain and swelling for up to 20 minutes every hour during the first 24 hours is recommended. After that, heat usually provides more relief than cold, as it loosens and relaxes tight muscles.

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