What is whiplash?

Whiplash is also known as neck sprain or neck strain. This common type of neck injury happens when the neck jolts backward or forward, sharply and suddenly. Whiplash due to a motor vehicle collision or another injury can strain your muscles or damage soft tissues in your neck. It can cause minor to severe symptoms, based on which neck tissues (such as ligaments and nerves) you injured and how badly.

Are whiplash and concussion the same thing?

No. Whiplash and concussion injuries are both caused by a sudden, forceful jolt. However, these injuries differ in several ways. Whiplash is a neck injury that damages soft tissues (such as ligaments or muscles). A concussion is a type of brain injury.

What does whiplash feel like?

How you feel will depend on the details of your injury, including the type of tissues affected and how seriously you were hurt.

After a whiplash injury, you may feel a dull, aching pain in the front or back of your neck (or both). Many people have a stiff neck that makes it difficult to turn your head side to side.

It’s important to note that a motor vehicle’s speed at the time of impact does not dictate how severe your symptoms are. Even if cars are moving slowly when they collide, you could still have a serious injury.

What causes whiplash?

Motor vehicle collisions (such as getting rear-ended) are one main cause of whiplash injuries. But you can get a whiplash injury anytime your head jerks or lurches in a sudden forward or backward motion.

Trauma due to a hard fall or sports injury may cause whiplash. So can physical abuse, such as being punched or shaken violently.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Whiplash symptoms can range widely. You may feel symptoms soon after you get hurt or days later. Healthcare providers sometimes refer to the vast collection of potential whiplash symptoms as whiplash-associated disorders (or WAD).

Symptoms often include:

  • Pain, including neck pain, back pain and shoulder pain.
  • Stiff neck that’s difficult to turn.
  • Muscle spasms (random muscle movements you can’t control).
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue (being overly tired).
  • Anxiety or memory issues.

Does whiplash make you tired?

Whiplash affects people in many different ways. Fatigue is when your body often feels overly tired, no matter how much sleep you get. People commonly experience fatigue at some point after a whiplash injury.

Can whiplash cause neurological problems?

Occasionally, whiplash injuries may affect how your brain works. Pain can change how you process information or emotions. You may have:

  • Memory loss.
  • Problems stayed focused.
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep).
  • Sudden mood changes, such as feeling nervous or depressed without knowing why.

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