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An image of a man inside of a car holding his neck in pain, which is one of the signs of whiplash.

Do You Know All of the Signs of Whiplash? It Could Save You from Pain

Do you have pain in your neck after some form of trauma? It could be one of the signs of whiplash. Check out the causes, symptoms, and how to treat it here!

Know the Signs of Whiplash to Take the Steps Toward Treatment!

Whiplash: We’ve all heard the term, but what does it really mean?

While the basic idea is that your head jerks back and forth quickly, the condition can be far more complicated than that.

It could be days after an incident before you start to feel any whiplash side effects. Still, knowing the signs of whiplash can give you a head start on getting the right treatment!

Keep reading to find out what whiplash is, what to look out for, and what the best treatment option is!

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury that happens when your head suddenly moves backward and then forward, much like the motion of cracking a whip. That motion forces your muscles and ligaments to extend past their normal range of motion.

Whiplash is considered a soft tissue injury. However, the North American Spine Society states that if the pain lasts longer than 6-10 weeks, it may be because of disc or facet damage. “Facets” are where the bones in your spine come together and form a “facet joint.”

The North American Spine Society also states that facet joint pain is the most common cause of chronic neck pain after a car accident.

A graphic showing the movement of how whiplash happens.
Whiplash is caused by the sudden motion of your neck moving back and forth.

What Causes Whiplash Injury?

When you hear the term “whiplash,” do you think of what happens during a car accident? If so, you’re absolutely right. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of whiplash. As the car lurches forward and then returns to a resting position, it can strain the neck muscles beyond their normal function.

However, a vehicle collision is not the only way whiplash can occur. In fact, many different incidents can cause whiplash. These include:

  • Contact Sports
  • Physical Assault
  • Falls

We will discuss how each of these activities can cause whiplash below.

Contact Sports

Football is the go-to example for whiplash in contact sports. Even though players wear pads and helmets, their necks sometimes lack adequate protection. Therefore, a hit or tackle can occasionally result in whiplash.

There are other contact sports this can happen in as well, such as lacrosse, rugby, hockey, and basketball. While two athletes running at each other full-speed does not generate the same power or speed of a car, the collision can be violent enough to cause whiplash.

Physical Assault

Much like contact sports, any time another force is exerted on a person, it has the possibility of resulting in whiplash. Anytime someone is punched or shaken violently, it has the potential to extend the neck muscles past their normal range of motion.


When a person falls, the body tends to move about sporadically. This movement is the body’s way of trying to control the fall.

However, the motion can have a detrimental effect on your neck. Too much violent movement of the head and neck can cause whiplash.

What Are Whiplash Symptoms?

Pain in your neck is the most prominent symptom of whiplash. However, whiplash symptoms can take time to manifest themselves. It could be 1-2 days after your accident before you start showing signs of whiplash. But those symptoms can include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Jaw pain
  • Decreased neck rotation
  • Numbness and/or tingling down the arms
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory loss

It’s important to pay close attention to any new symptoms that come up in the days following your accident. You will especially want to look out for a whiplash headache, which will usually start the day after an incident.

One of the telltale signs of a whiplash headache is how it spreads. The pain will start just above the neck and radiate into the back of the head.

An image of a chiropractor treating a patient with back and neck pain from whiplash.
Chiropractic care is the proven method for helping stop whiplash pain.

What is the Best Treatment for Whiplash?

Once you have whiplash, how do you treat it?

Most people’s first reaction to the pain is to use some form of painkillers. But these medications only temporarily mask the symptoms.

A better treatment option for whiplash is chiropractic care.

A frequently cited study shows that 93% of whiplash patients improve with chiropractic care. This study also states that if patients are still symptomatic after three months, there is almost a 90% chance they will remain so. It will not just go away on its own.

But with chiropractic treatment, 26 out of 28 (93%) of chronic patients improved.

So, why do chiropractors provide the best treatment for whiplash? It’s because they focus on treating the facet joints. They also treat discs, the spine, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and whatever structures are damaged.

Chiropractors use a variety of methods to treat whiplash, including spinal manipulation.

Spinal manipulation alleviates some of the stress of the injury and returns motion to the neck. This method also alleviates the numbness and/or tingling sensations associated with the injury.

Chiropractors can also give patients exercises or stretches to maximize the benefits of the chiropractic care they receive.

How Can We Help with Your Pain?

When you see the signs of whiplash, it’s time to go to a chiropractor. Only chiropractic care can give you the help you need to start living your life again.

If you are having pain, give us a call at 847-854-2000 to set up an appointment with our experienced chiropractic team! We will work with you to find the perfect treatment regimen for your situation.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 1, 2013. It has been updated on May 12, 2020.