Common Injuries: What is Whiplash?

This post is part of our ongoing series to educate our patients about common sports injuries and how they can be treated with our nonsurgical techniques. It’s all part of our commitment to helping you live pain free.

Whiplash is a commonly used term, but it is not often well understood. The most common cause of a whiplash injury is a motor vehicle accident, usually cause by a rear end collision. Whiplash, however, is not just limited to car accidents and can be caused by any form of trauma to the neck.


Symptoms vary for each patient, but typically include:


As we mentioned, whiplash is most commonly caused by a rear end collision. This causes a persons’s head to rapidly move backward and forward. This can result in injuries to the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) and to the small joints in the neck. In addition to car accidents, contact sports or physical assault can lead to similar injuries.


A whiplash injury can usually be diagnosed in our pain management office in Ramsey, NJ. The most important part of your visit will be a history and physical exam. This will allow our doctors to develop a good understanding of what cause your injury and what symptoms you’re feeling. The physical exam will be used to thoroughly check your neck, including where it is tender, how much motion you have, and what motions cause pain.

A patient who has sustained a high force trauma, like those of a motor vehicle accident, will require an x-ray to rule out any other cause of your pain. Less commonly, an MRI or nerve test (EMG) may be needed to more closely evaluate your spine.


Initial treatment is rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications. Rest should only be considered for the first 24 to 48 hours. Beyond that, resting your neck will prolong your pain. The mainstay of treatment for whiplash is physical therapy. The focus of therapy is on pain reduction, controlling muscle spasm, and improving range of motion to the neck.

Other conservative treatment options available in our physical therapy clinic in Ramsey, NJ include acupuncture and massage. Combining these modalities with a customized physical therapy program leads to better outcomes including lower pain scores and faster recovery.

Injections, including nerve blocks and trigger point injections (in to the muscles), are also options for treating whiplash injuries that do not respond to conservative treatment.

At Progressive Spine and Sports Medicine, we specialize in nonsurgical pain management, and whiplash is just one of the many injuries we diagnose and treat in our Ramsey, NJ medical center. For more information, please see our full list of our nonsurgical services, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.

We look forward to being your #1 solution for nonsurgical pain treatment.

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