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Whiplash neck sprain

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A whiplash neck sprain occurs if the head is abruptly jolted backwards and forwards in a manner like a whip or suddenly rotated in a forceful manner. This results to overstretching of some neck muscles and ligaments.

The usual cause is when driving a vehicle that is struck from behind by another vehicle. Being hit from the front or side can also cause a whiplash sprain.

Who are at risk?

A whiplash neck sprain is considered as a common injury. Many individuals involved in vehicular accidents end up with neck pain. Take note that women are more susceptible than men to develop whiplash since their neck muscles are less sturdy.

Whiplash neck sprain
Neck pain and stiffness that occurs several hours after an accident. This often worsens the day after the injury.

Some individuals find it surprising to have symptoms after being involved in a minor road accident. Even a slow bump can trigger enough jerking of the neck to trigger symptoms. In some cases, whiplash can occur during sports or even with daily activities such as shuddering of the neck from a fall or trip.

What are the indications of a whiplash neck sprain?

  • Neck pain and stiffness that occurs several hours after an accident. This often worsens the day after the injury.
  • Difficulty bending or turning the neck
  • Stiffness or pain in the shoulders or down the arms
  • Pain and rigidity in the upper and lower part of the back
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision, dizziness, jaw pain, difficulty swallowing and unusual sensations on the face can occur for a brief period but later subside.
  • Tiredness, difficulty concentrating and irritability for a few days



The objective is to keep the neck mobile as normally as possible. Initially, the pain can be agonizing and there is a need to rest for a day or so. Nevertheless, gentle exercises for the neck must be done if possible. Steadily increase the range of neck movements.


  • Pain medications are often useful and usually recommended by the doctor.
  • Paracetamol at full strength is enough.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can be used alone or along with paracetamol.
  • A potent pain medication such as codeine is an alternative if anti-inflammatory drugs do not work well for the individual. Codeine is usually take along with paracetamol.
  • Muscle relaxants such as diazepam might be prescribed for a few days if the neck muscles become tense and the pain is aggravated.

There are also other measures that might be advised such as maintaining good posture while at work or when in front of a computer. In addition, using a firm supporting pillow can be used while sleeping.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on whiplash neck sprain is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage neck injuries including a whiplash neck sprain, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.

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