Whiplash injury occurs when there is a hyperflexion and then hyperextension event affecting the cervical spine mainly by rear-ended motor vehicle accidents, but can happen by head-on or side collisions. This is a passive movement of the cervical spine as the collision is too quick for the stabilizers of the spine to support the cervical spine. Muscular strains and sprains can occur which heal relatively quickly. Other structures are at risk for injury including the disk, ligaments, and facet joints.
Mostly an individual experiences neck pain and headaches, less commonly shoulder pain, and arm pain. Neurological deficits are rare.
Further imaging including X-rays, CT or MRI may be indicated if there is any neurological deficits or concern for a fracture.
Physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and injections if necessary. Education is important on the prognosis and usual course of treatment.
The prognosis for recovery is usually 2-3 months and occasionally up to 2 years.