How To Distinguish Whiplash From Other Neck Injuries

When you are in a situation where there is a sudden and forceful back-and-forth motion in your neck, you may have experienced whiplash. The name “whiplash” comes from the motion of a whip cracking, which is similar to what your neck movement does in this type of injury. 

The forceful and sudden throwing back-and-forth of your head in quick succession can cause injury due to the unnatural strain on your discs, nerves, and soft tissue. Whiplash is most often associated with rear-end car collisions, but can also result from sports injuries, falls, or other high-impact events.

No matter how it occurred, whiplash should be taken seriously and may require Brooklyn physical therapy. It is helpful to be aware of symptoms, causes, and treatments so you can heal effectively. 


What Causes Whiplash?

Whiplash typically results from a rapid acceleration-deceleration force in quick succession. This creates a lot of unnatural stress on your muscles, causing tears, sprains, or strains. Most whiplash events occur from vehicle rear-ends or crashes. However, there are several additional causes of whiplash:

  • Sports Injury – Contact sports, especially football and rugby.
  • Physical Assault – Violent incidents such as being punched or shaken with force.
  • Falls – A fall where the head is jerked back and forth.
  • Roller Coasters/Amusement Park Rides – While less common, the quick motions of these rides can cause whiplash-like injuries in some people.
  • Car Accident – Rear-end collision or other type of collision that creates a fast stop-and-go situation. 

Typical Whiplash Symptoms

Symptoms of whiplash vary depending on the severity of the impact as well as individual factors. Symptoms may not appear directly after the event and may take hours or even days to present themselves.

If you or someone you know has experienced whiplash it is important to seek medical attention. Brooklyn physical therapists can assess the severity of your injury and give you the steps toward recovery.

Some common symptoms of whiplash are:

  • Neck Pain
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder and Upper Back Pain
  • Arm Pain and Tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred Vision
  • Ringing in Ears
  • Sleep Disturbances

Treatments For Whiplash

Muscle Knots

It is advised to seek medical attention immediately if you have experienced whiplash. Your medical professional will likely request x-rays of your head and neck area to examine the extent of the injury. The treatment you will be given will aim to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, restore neck mobility, and promote healing. Treatment plans vary depending on the severity of the injury and individual circumstances which is why professional treatment is necessary.

The most common treatments for Whiplash are:

  • Rest – It is essential to give your muscles time to relax and heal from the injury.
  • Pain Relief – Over-the-counter pain medication may be recommended like acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Be sure to contact your healthcare professional to know what is safe for you.
  • Ice and Heat Therapy – Applying ice packs to the affected area for the first 48 hours can help reduce swelling and pain. After the initial phase, using heat packs can help promote circulation and relax your muscles.
  • Physical Therapy – Brooklyn physical therapists can help customize an exercise program to help improve neck strength, flexibility, and range of motion. These exercises also reduce the possibility of chronic pain.
  • Neck Braces – In severe cases, a neck brace is used to reduce neck movement so healing can occur.
  • Lifestyle Changes – Avoid activities that strain the neck to prevent further injury aggravation.

How Quickly Can Whiplash Heal?

The healing time for whiplash varies significantly from person to person and depends on several factors, including the severity of the injury, age, your health, and how well you follow your treatment plan. 

Generally, most whiplash heals within a few weeks to a few months given proper care. However, some cases may take longer to heal and a few individuals may experience chronic symptoms for more extended periods. Remember, recovery is not always linear and you may have good days followed by bad days.

  • Mild Whiplash: In cases where symptoms are relatively minor and there is no structural damage, you may recover in as little as a few weeks given rest, pain medication, and gentle exercise.
  • Moderate Whiplash: Whiplash that has more pronounced symptoms along with soft tissue damage may take a few weeks to a few months to recover. Brooklyn physical therapy is recommended at this stage.
  • Severe Whiplash: There is probably severe structural damage, nerve involvement, and other complications in this case. Severe whiplash may take several months to heal. These cases may require intensive and prolonged physical therapy and other types of care.

If you have whiplash, no matter the severity, it is crucial to follow the advice of a healthcare professional and adhere to the treatment plan. Staying patient and not pushing yourself too hard during the recovery phase can help ensure the best possible outcome and reduce the risk of long-term complications.

Find a Top-Rated Brooklyn Physical Therapist

If you are suffering from whiplash, Phoenix Physical Therapy Rehabilitation is here to help. From our experienced physicians, convenient hours, top ratings, and state-of-the-art equipment, we can help bring you to a place of healing! 

We want to help you create a treatment plan that allows you out of your pain! Contact us today!


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Phoenix Physical Therapy

Rosedale Location
23520 147th Avenue, Suite 1,
Rosedale, NY, 11422

Brooklyn Location
7510 4th Ave., Suite 3,
Brooklyn, NY, 11209

Phone: (347) 733-1916