What is Whiplash

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


What is Whiplash
What is Whiplash

I am always delighted when my clients ask questions in order to better understand their injury, as I truly believe that if you understand exactly what has happened to you, your rehabilitation will be quicker and more effective.

Many of my clients ask me on our first meeting to explain just what whiplash is. So, here goes.

Unlike many medical terms used for back and neck injuries I like the term “whiplash” - it explains your condition very well in its name alone! Imagine the movement a ‘whip lash’ - It fully extends the whip in one direction and then forcefully extends the whip in the opposite direction.

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Whiplash Explained

What is Whiplash
What is Whiplash

Now, think of your neck and upper body doing the same thing and we are there - Whiplash is a term used to describe a particular type of mechanical injury to the neck and back. It is commonly associated with Road Traffic Accidents, or similar types traumatic force that causes the neck and upper back to be thrust forwards and backwards in a whiplash type motion.

This movement when applied to your neck and upper back forces the joints and soft tissues along the line of the whip to be overextended, often resulting in them being torn and forcefully compressed in the process. The result is pain and stiffness from the tissues and joints as they have been traumatised, and the inflammation associated with your whiplash injury causes pain, stiffness, and potentially pins and needles, weakness, and numbness.

Understanding what your condition means will help you greatly in its overall management and treatment, so spend some time reading about what whiplash is as well as the symptoms you may get, and then your understanding of the treatment for whiplash and exercise for whiplash will be so much better.


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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