Whiplash is a common neck injury. It happens when your neck jerks back and forth quickly and violently. Your spine bends past its normal range of motion and can result in an injury to the vertebrae of your cervical spine or damage to the supporting ligaments and muscles in your neck.

The most common cause of whiplash is from rear end or side impact motor vehicle accidents, even at slow speeds. If you have a shorter neck, a car seat with a low neck rest, or if you are in a rear end accident with a heavy vehicle, the injury tends to be worse.


Pain from whiplash is mainly from damage to the facet joints, not the muscles. Symptoms include neck pain and stiffness. Patients can also experience headaches, upper back, shoulder, and arm pain, paresthesias (pins and needles feeling), numbness, weakness, dizziness, vision changes, vertigo, difficulty swallowing, and fatigue.

Almost half of patients can develop chronic pain which is pain lasting longer than 3 months.

The chances of a full recovery become less if the whiplash is severe and accompanied by neurological deficits, arm pain, headaches, or the need for hospitalization.

Slower recovery can be associated with old age or prior neck pain. Whiplash injuries tend to be worse in females or in cases where medical care is not immediately sought or available.

Chronic pain from whiplash can lead to depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. It can also lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain or touch at the site of the injury as well as in other areas. This is called hyperalgesia.



The team at Ascent Pain Solutions will complete a full evaluation which includes a comprehensive review of the trauma, a physical examination, and imaging which may include an x-ray and/or an MRI.

Treatment Options

The goals of whiplash treatment are to control pain and to restore a normal range of motion so you can get back to doing the activities of daily living. Conservative treatments may include rest, heat, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, or muscle relaxants.

If pain persists or the injury becomes chronic, treatments may include physical therapy, antidepressants, epidural steroid injection, cervical radiofrequency ablation, Botox injections, or pain psychology. If a neurologic deficit is present, a surgical evaluation may be required.