You’re making your way to work on your normal morning commute when — BAM! — you’re rear-ended by the car behind you. They hit you pretty hard, but you don’t seem to feel anything until you wake up the next morning with a painful, stiff neck. It’s called whiplash, and it can happen to you.

Whiplash occurs when your neck is whipped back and forth very suddenly, pulling the muscles and ligaments of your neck beyond their normal range of motion. This can result in pain located mainly in the neck and upper back. The pain may not always be present initially, so it is crucial to pay attention to any changes that may occur in the hours that follow the incident.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Although whiplash is considered a generally mild condition, the pain it causes can last for several weeks and can interfere with normal day-to-day tasks. Symptoms will normally appear within 24 hours after the initial injury, but can sometimes take a couple of days to present. Some warning signs that you may have whiplash include:

  • Pain, stiffness or tension in the neck
  • Worsening pain with neck movement
  • Difficulty when moving neck
  • Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches mostly at the base of the skull

You may also experience some less common symptoms, like:

  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Irritability
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

How can whiplash occur?

There are a few circumstances that can result in whiplash. Car accidents are one of the most common incidents that can result in whiplash. But contact sports, skiing, horseback riding or cycling accidents can also put you at risk for whiplash.

When should I see a doctor?

Though whiplash is usually a mild condition, it is recommended that you see a pain specialist if the pain or stiffness in your neck is affecting your daily routine. Severe pain that comes and goes is a warning sign that the whiplash could be more serious. If you are experiencing any pain, numbness or tingling in your shoulders, arms or legs or — in rare cases — abnormalities in your bladder or bowels, you may need to see a physician.

At your appointment

An examination will be done by one of our pain professionals to determine the severity of the whiplash by examining the mobility of your head and neck. This will help determine:

  • Types of movement that cause or increase pain
  • Tenderness in the neck, shoulders or back
  • The flexibility in your neck and shoulders
  • Reflexes, feelings and strength in your arms and legs

Our pain professionals will use different testing techniques like X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help evaluate any damage.
At Cedar Rapids Pain Associates, we offer comprehensive, individualized treatment options catered to your specific needs. If you have suffered a recent incident that is causing symptoms of whiplash, give our pain experts a call today at (319) 540-8251 to make your appointment.