Symptoms and Signs of Whiplash

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Whiplash

Whiplash is a term used to describe neck pain due to an injury to the ligaments, tendons and/or muscles of the neck. Other medical terms for whiplash are cervical strain or sprain, flexion-extension neck injury and cervical hyperextension injury. Signs and symptoms include tenderness along the back and shoulders, neck swelling, neck muscle spasms, difficulty and/or pain when flexing, extending or rotating the head, headache, fatigue, sleep disturbances, jaw tightness, difficult chewing, vision disturbances and tinnitus.

The most frequent cause of whiplash is a car accident, even if you are wearing a seatbelt. Other causes are contact sports, assaults, blow to the head from a falling object, for example. Sudden strains from changes in direction (like roller coasters, bicycle accidents) or repetitive stress like holding a phone against your head can cause whiplash. Child abuse (shaking a child) may cause whiplash in children.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.