Whiplash: Symptoms & Treatments

The holiday season is one of the most dangerous times for traveling on the roads. Increased traffic, winter weather conditions and impatient drivers all increase risk for getting into a fender bender.

One of the most common auto accident injuries is whiplash. Often referred to as a neck sprain or strain, whiplash is caused by an abrupt backward and/or forward jerking motion of the head, typically the result of getting rear ended. Whiplash injuries can also occur from other injuries, for example falling off a bike or falling while on the ski slopes.

If your pain is severe, you have pain in your mid or lower back, you are experiencing symptoms such as new numbness and tingling, dizziness, weakness in your arms and legs, or balance problems, seek care from physician immediately.

Other, less serious symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, shoulder pain, and headaches.

Most whiplash symptoms will subside in 2-4 weeks, and don’t require much intervention. But when symptoms persist or are more severe, physical therapy is an important part of whiplash treatment. Similar to other injuries, a faster recovery depends on early mobilization. To help restore function and movement, a physical therapist may include the following in your individualized treatment plan:

  • Range of motion exercises, with variations based on specific limitations.

  • Manual (hands on) therapy, which could potentially include soft tissue mobilization, dry needling, and joint mobilization and/or manipulation.

  • Strengthening exercises for the neck and shoulder blade region

  • Education on gradual return back to usual activities


Of course preventing whiplash is the best option of all. While on the roads this holiday season, take your time, give yourself and the cars around you plenty of space and avoid using your phone while driving.

Join the conversation: How do you stay safe on the roads during the holiday season?



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