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Is whiplash a serious injury?

No one wakes up in the morning and expects to be involved in a car accident. However, that is an unfortunate reality for many people, even those who follow traffic rules and treat other motorists conscientiously.

Car accidents can also cause many injuries, including whiplash. While whiplash is considered a minor injury, some accident victims experience ill effects for weeks or months after the incident. Some even struggle with chronic pain for years, which has a negative impact on their quality of life and even wage-earning if the effects are severe enough. This guide explains what car accident victims need to know about whiplash to take the proper steps to get the right medical assistance.

How whiplash occurs

Whiplash happens when a person's neck snaps forward and back rapidly. This back-and-forth motion damages tissues in the neck, including muscles and tendons. Whiplash is a common injury in rear-end accidents, where the force of the collision can cause your head to lurch forward before whipping back with high speed.


The most common symptom of whiplash is pain and stiffness in the neck. This may limit your range of motion, as it will be difficult to turn your neck from side to side. Pain can also spread to other areas of the body, such as the shoulder and arms. People with whiplash also experience dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and a numb sensation in the upper extremities. More severe symptoms include problems with memory, blurred vision, and trouble sleeping, among others.

Possible complications

While whiplash commonly resolves within a few weeks of the injury, some people develop more serious, lasting effects. Neck pain can become severe, which will significantly restrict your ability to turn your neck from side to side. This pain can also spread to your arms, thereby causing further disruption to your life. Being involved in a high-speed crash increases the chance of experiencing more serious symptoms, but age and health can also play a role.


Conservative treatment, including ice/heat therapy and rest, is recommended for minor symptoms. When it comes to serious complications, your medical team may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy can help you strengthen muscles and boost neck movement. The length of sessions typically depends on the severity of the injury and how well you respond to the treatment. Your physician may also prescribe medication to treat pain and other long-term symptoms.

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