Whiplash and neck problems

There are often news items in the newspaper stating that a person has suffered a car accident with whiplash injuries. A commonly used term, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Not only because of the somewhat vague description of this condition, but also because there are quite a few people who try to claim damages for whiplash, often without positive results. But what exactly is this whiplash injury?

What is whiplash?

People who have suffered whiplash, wherever they are, all have the same similarity : the head and neck have made a strong swinging movement relative to the torso and each other. This is called whiplash injury .

The neck

The neck, a crucial and complex organ, is unprepared for such powerful impacts. The neck has seven vertebrae, 38 joints and 22 pairs of muscles. This makes the neck very sensitive to injury. The function of the neck and spine is to support the skull and protect the nerves. In addition, it provides the muscles with attachment points.

Definition of whiplash

Doctors officially call whiplash a cervical acceleration-deceleration injury . Whiplash can be caused by a rear-end collision with the car, but side collisions and accidents during sports, for example, can also be possible causes. The classic definition of whiplash states that the injury may only be called a whiplash if the neck has not collided with anything , in order to be able to make a clear distinction with a concussion , among other things. The whiplash does not have to occur immediately, in some cases there is a delayed or late whiplash.

Symptoms of whiplash and whiplash complaints

Neck complaints are taken as a starting point for diagnosing whiplash. This is sometimes summarized as whiplash syndrome. The neck was taken as a starting point because these are functional disorders of the musculoskeletal system and are therefore a reliable measure of the severity of the complaints. People often have neck pain. You can complete the whiplash complaints questionnaire to get an indication of the extent to which your complaints are typical of whiplash.

Other characteristic whiplash symptoms :


Temperature variations

Abnormal sleeping and waking patterns

Altered heart rhythm

Excessive perspiration

Eye complaints

Swallowing complaints

Jaw joint complaints

Hormonal changes

Sensitivity to weather change



Cognitive problems (such as speech and writing disorders

Skin complaints



Whiplash classification

The Qu├ębec Task Force (QTF) presented a study on whiplash in 1995 . They developed a classification system for whiplash complaints. This QTF system is used by many doctors. They present the complaints as follows:




No complaints about the neck, no physical signs


Neck complaints: pain, tenderness and stiffness, no physical signs


Neck complaints and musculoskeletal signs


Neck complaints and neurological signs


Neck complaints and fracture or delocation


Whiplash prognosis

The blow that causes whiplash can damage the head and neck area. This damage can be permanent . Injuries caused by whiplash cause chronic whiplash complaints in approximately 10 to 40% of victims . These include neck pain, neck stiffness, headaches and cognitive and psychological limitations.

Whiplash treatment

Whiplash can be treated in different ways. The treatment immediately after and some time after the onset of whiplash differs.

Immediately after the whiplash

If you visit your doctor after the accident or collision, he or she may refer you to a hospital to have x-rays taken of the neck to rule out any other injuries. The first days after the accident, one should not move or strain the neck too much. In general, 10 hours of strict bed rest is required in the first 10 hours after the accident. After 48 hours, the neck can be cooled with ice . Heat in the neck should be avoided for the first 48 hours.

Cervical collar

Many people with wiplash are prescribed a cervical collar , although this is becoming less popular. The cervical collar prevents too much strain on the neck and reduces neck pain slightly. The cervical collar should not be worn for too long because it can weaken the neck, worsening the complaints .


Physiotherapy or another form of exercise therapy can be started a few weeks after the onset of whiplash . During these treatments, you learn to use muscles correctly again and sore muscles are loosened for relaxation. Physiotherapy can greatly reduce the severity of the complaints, if applied correctly.

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