Auto Accidents

Whiplash, a sudden jostle or “whipping” of the head, results in trauma delivered to the soft tissues of the neck. These sudden changes of motion strain the muscles and ligaments of the neck beyond their normal range of motion. Auto accidents are the most common situation in which whiplash occurs. As a vehicle is stopped or is struck from behind, the seat belt’s design, although excellent at keeping the person’s body from being thrown forward, cannot protect the movement of the neck, and the head may snap forward, and back again. Whiplash damage can also occur from certain amusement park rides, from particularly traumatic sports injuries, or being struck or shaken violently.

At first, you may feel pain and stiffness in the neck, and it may even feel better early on. But the pain and stiffness can return several days later and last for months, or even years. Typically, whiplash can result in discomfort in your head, chest, shoulders, and arms. It is important to seek medical help to assess whether or not you have suffered trauma of the neck if you have experienced an accident which resulted in a quick and abnormal jerking of the head.

An Closer Look at Whiplash

Whiplash, also called cervical acceleration/decelation (or CAD) syndrome, is a neck injury commonly caused by car accidents, falls, and contact sports. It results from a quick, jerking motion that forces the neck beyond its normal range of motion.

How it Occurs

When the head is suddenly and violently whipped back and forth, the cervical spine can be hyperextended, or forced past its normal range of motion. This can injur the vertebrae, supporting ligaments, joints and muscles in the neck.


Symptoms may occur immediately after an injury or several days later. Whiplash sufferers may experience neck pain and stiffness, headache, dizziness, difficulty chewing or swallowing, burning or prickling sensations, or shoulder and back pain.


Whiplash may be treated with a soft cervical collar that immobilizes the neck while it heals. Other treatments include medication, physical therapy and nerve blocks.

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