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Disease: Whiplash Whiplash
Category: Bones, joints, muscles diseases

Disease Definition:

When someone’s head suddenly moves backward and then forward, similar to the motion of someone cracking a whip, whiplash occurs, a common neck injury that usually happens during rear-end car collisions. During these extreme motions, the neck muscles and ligaments are pushed beyond their normal range of motion.


Treatment consists of applying ice to the painful neck muscles and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Prescription medications and physical therapy could help in case the pain persists. Although some people with whiplash injuries develop chronic symptoms which can be disabling and very painful, but usually, within four to six weeks, most people recover from whiplash.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


The signs and symptoms of whiplash can occur either after a few days of the injury, or immediately. Some of those symptoms are:


  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Irritability
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurred vision


When a sudden force throws the head backward and then forward straining the neck’s muscles and ligaments, whiplash occurs. Some of its causes are:


  • Being punched or shaken
  • Collisions while playing contact sports.
  • Car accidents, especially for people whose vehicle has been rear-ended.
  • Roller coasters or other amusement park rides.



After months of the injury, between 15 to 40% of people with whiplash injury will continue to experience pain. Even though most of the time no abnormality can be found to explain this persistent neck pain, however, in some cases, this chronic pain could be traced to damage in the disks, joints and ligaments of the neck.



Ice or heat could be used on the neck and upper back. Usually, early in the recovery period, ice is used to reduce inflammation, while before range-of-motion exercises, heat is used to relax the muscles. To help restore the neck’s range of motion, the patient will be asked to regularly perform gentle stretching exercises once the pain is under control. Rotating the head from side to side and bending the neck forward, backward and to the sides are some of the exercises mentioned before. In case the pain persists for several months, the will be recommended physical therapy in order to help strengthen the muscles supporting the head.



Mild to moderate whiplash pain can be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen.However, severe whiplash pain can be controlled with short-term prescription pain relievers containing codeine. Another choice is muscle relaxants, but the patient may be asked to take these only at bedtime because they cause drowsiness.



In order to help perform the stretching exercises that are crucial to recovery, the patient may be injected a corticosteroid medicine or lidocain, a numbing medicine, into the painful muscle area to relieve the muscle spasms that are associated with whiplash injuries.



Cervical collars are no longer recommended routinely, because they immobilize the neck for long periods of time, which can lead to decreased muscle bulk and strength and impair recovery. However, these collars were once commonly used for whiplash injuries. A cervical collar could help the patient sleep in case he/she is constantly being awakened at night by whiplash pain. However, during the day, the collar should only be worn during the first few weeks after the injury and for no longer than three hours at a time.


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Consultants Corner

Dr. Tahsin Martini

Dr. Tahsin Martini Degree status: M.D. in Ophthalmology

Dr. Faisal Dibsi

Dr. Faisal Dibsi Specialist of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

Dr. Hani Najjar

Dr. Hani Najjar Pediatrics, Neurology

Samir Moussa M.D.

Samir Moussa M.D. ENT Specialist

Dr. Talal Sabouni


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Dr. Samer Al-Jneidy Pediatrician

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed Consultant Ophthalmologist

Dr . Dirar Abboud

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