Whiplash or whiplash

Whiplash often occurs during a collision, the so-called rear-end collision. The head first makes a backward movement and then a forward movement. This involves great power. Symptoms include pain in the neck and tingling in the fingers. A whiplash can cause so many complaints that working or learning becomes difficult. Treatment consists of exercises but also medication, for example.

Cause of whiplash

A whiplash is English for whiplash. The most commonly used term, also in the Netherlands, is whiplash. Whiplash is not a disease but a movement that causes an injury, resulting in various complaints. The most common cause is a rear-end collision. The head is first thrown backwards with great force and then forwards. When you see the collision coming, you automatically brace yourself by tensing your muscles. In these cases, whiplash is less common. The problem is that a rear-end collision often happens unexpectedly without you seeing it coming. Another cause is sport or violence, where a large blow or push is given to the back and the head is thrown back.

The patient

In general, children are less likely to experience whiplash than adults. Children are also more likely to be protected in a car seat or child seat, where their head is supported by a backrest. Adults often have problems with the neck support, which can cause their head to fall back. Young children also practice dangerous sports less often and are less likely to experience violence. It is striking that women get whiplash more often than men. The neck muscles in women are often less well developed. The neck muscles are also more likely to weaken in the elderly or people with an inactive lifestyle.

Bleeding in the spinal cord

Whiplash causes an injury to the spinal cord. This is caused by swinging the head back and forth with great force. Bleeding occurs in the spinal cord. In addition, bleeding in the brain may occur. In addition, other tissue can also be damaged, such as muscle strain, tendons, etc. Most complaints that arise afterwards are the result of damage to the spinal cord.


It is logical that after a swinging movement of the head the neck muscles are painful. This muscle pain can last for several days to two weeks before it goes away. Depending on the damage, pain may persist for a longer period of time. In addition to neck pain, many patients complain of headaches. Back pain and pain in the jaws also occur. The pain can also radiate to the shoulders and arms. Sometimes there is a tingling or burning sensation in the fingers. In addition to physical complaints, problems with concentration, among other things, also occur. Fatigue, forgetfulness and emotional instability are also commonly seen. Mood swings may occur. Sometimes cardiac arrhythmias occur, but whether these are related to whiplash is not always clear.

Treatment and exercises

Neck massage can relieve muscle pain. It is better not to crack the neck: this can often worsen the complaints. In some cases, whiplash is caused by incorrectly cracking the neck. A neck collar is often advised. This only makes sense if the collar is worn immediately after the accident. The collar acts as support, not healing. A neck collar supports the neck so that the muscles themselves are not used. If you wear a neck collar too often, the neck muscles will weaken to such an extent that the entire healing process will take longer. Sometimes it is better to have photos taken of the neck immediately after the accident to rule out other injuries. This is also recommended in cases where severe pain remains. And in more severe cases, medication such as painkillers or muscle relaxants is required.
Exercises are aimed at making the muscles flexible and relaxing. Never do exercises longer than necessary (3 to 5 times in a row) and pay close attention to the pain threshold. Exercises can include:

  • Roll the shoulders
  • Sit up straight and turn your head to the left and right
  • Looking up and down with the head
  • Rolling the head (only do this exercise if possible)

The physiotherapist can help with targeted exercises and can also provide massage. This often helps. Whether it is reimbursed depends on your own health insurer. Please inquire about this before starting treatment. It is often difficult to attribute the complaints that have arisen to whiplash. Sometimes the complaints only arise a few months to a few years after the accident. No direct link is then made with the accident and treatment is then even more difficult.

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