Symptoms of Whiplash

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Whiplash


What are the main Whiplash Symptoms?

Symptoms of Whiplash
A heavy or ‘wobbly’ head, and fear of movement are frequently-heard complaints

Now that we have looked at the causes of whiplash, let’s look at the some of symptoms:

Understanding the causes and variations in the symptoms of whiplash will help you in your recovery as the treatments and exercise for whiplash your physiotherapist gives you will be enhanced by your understanding. Furthermore understanding of your whiplash symptoms will reduce the fear associated with them, which is of primary importance in the resolution of your pain.

If you have whiplash you will be aware that it is commonly associated with pain and aches in the neck, shoulders and middle back. People commonly report “their head to feel too heavy for their body”. Pins and needles into one or both arms are also common. A “wobbly ” and a “fear of movement” are frequently-heard complaints. Headaches can also be present.

Symptoms of whiplash may present immediately at the time of injury or else three to five days after the accident. You may be worried, as at the time of the accident you felt ok and it was only three days later you felt pain and stiffness. The truth is that this is normal and common in whiplash injuries.

The body has an amazing ability in ‘shock’ to hide your pain is one aspect i see, as well as the process of inflammation which may only present symptomatically from day three or four. “So why exactly do I feel pain and stiffness and pins and needles and numbness?” “Why does my head feel too heavy for my shoulders?” The pain you feel is as a result of the damage and strain placed on your ligaments, muscles joints and nerves.

The inflammatory process associated with injury further increases temporarily the stiffness you may feel. Fear of movement may also make your stiffness symptoms stronger. Pins and needles and numbness are symptoms of nerve damage. In whiplash they are usually as a result of your nerves in your neck being strained and or compressed.

Your head feels too heavy because it is!! Your head is the heaviest part of your body and when the joints, muscles and ligaments that are responsible for holding it are damaged and weakened the result is often that vulnerable feeling of your head falling off your shoulders. Does any or all of this sound familiar? Fear not these symptoms as treatment is effective and resolution of your condition is on its way!!

Once you understand what I have explained re your symptoms of whiplash, continue on to read treatment of whiplash. But remember you must understand the causes and symptoms of whiplash before you embark on a fully effective rehabilitation. Tissue has memory and sometimes the shock of the accident remains in your tissues.

I often use manual therapy and Craniosacral techniques to release this shock from your tissues. Craniosacral therapy is a gentle therapy working physically on the body to remove any negative memory from your tissues. In some situations this is an important aspect of recovery and healing.


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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