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If you were recently in an accident and are experiencing neck pain, you might have whiplash. Each year, almost 2 million Americans are injured and suffer from whiplash.

You can get whiplash from:

  • A car accident
  • A sports injury
  • A fall
  • Being punched or shaken

Whiplash, although not technically a medical term, is very real and can be very painful. We call it whiplash because, in an accident, your neck really can whip back and forth first backward (hyperextension) and then forward (hyperflexion). Doctors call whiplash a neck sprain or strain. Whiplash is an injury to the soft tissues of your neck and upper back that occurs when your muscles and ligaments get over-stretched from the force of an accident. Ironically, it is very easy to hurt your neck like this since your neck is designed to move in many directions and when you’re in an accident, unfortunately, it may do so!

The key symptom of whiplash is neck or upper back pain. The pain can start immediately—or, it can develop days, weeks, and sometimes even months after the accident. Some people only have a little pain, but some experience a lot. If you have whiplash you might feel:

  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Tightness or spasms of the neck or upper back muscles
  • Burning or tingling

Whiplash Injuries can be mild initially—at first, you may not even know that you are injured. However, whiplash can still cause symptoms five years later, and in the long run, can be associated with other problems such as osteoarthritis (bone and joint pain) and premature disc degeneration (faster aging of the spine).

Even if your neck pain is only mild, see a doctor as soon as possible. The good news is that, with time, most people with whiplash recover fully.


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