The physiotherapy site

Home > Articles > 149 > Symptoms Of Whiplash Injury

Symptoms of Whiplash Injury

When a person suffers a whiplash injury pain may not be the first thing they notice unless the accident is very severe and high levels of force are involved. The shock of the accident and coping with the aftermath takes up the early period and people are often aware later of neck ache or low back pain or back ache. The main symptom is pain, with the acute injury generating high levels of pain in some cases, which settles to a dull ache with severe pains and spasms on attempted movement. The sufferer tries to keep their neck as still as possible during this  period to avoid the increased pains from neck ranges of motion.

Stiffness of the neck is the second main symptom, with varying limitation of neck ranges of motion depending on the severity of the original injury. The capsules of the facet joints, which are ligamentous bags surrounding the joints, are very sensitive to stretch and when injured do not permit the person to move into the injured ranges, limiting their ability to move the neck. This limitation reduces gradually as the pain reduces and the person starts to use their neck more normally again.

Once the acute period settles the pain will be more like a dull ache, rising to a proper pain if the neck is stressed posturally for too long of moved much beyond the limits. Resting will be much more comfortable in a position where little force is on the neck such as lying. Other symptoms which can present include muscle weakness in one or both arms, mainly secondary to the pain which stops the vigorous use of the arms but there can be a direct effect with nerve damage or inflammation which may make a particular muscle or muscles weaker than expected. Disturbance of the sensory functions of the nerves exiting the neck from the spinal cord are also common, with alterations in the feelings which can include those to do with touch or cold and heat. Severe disturbance in the sensory nerve function in the arm or neck is a negative factor for more long term problems with the neck.

Due to the high neck being involved typically in this injury headaches are also a common symptom as the upper neck joints share the nerve supply with areas of the head. Medical evaluation is always important, particularly if there are symptoms such as dizziness, double vision or difficulties with swallowing.


Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth

Further information: whiplash injury compensation claim

Article Archive

Searcg, find, book

for fast appointments with
qualified local physiotherapists

Search for a local Physiotherapist

Tick a box below to focus
your local search results on:

Neuro Physiotherapy
Home Visits
Female Physiotherapists

More on Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy Blog

Physiotherapy Podcast

Physiotherapy Resources