The neck connects your head to your shoulders and is a surprisingly complex region of your body. The relatively small anatomic area, reaching from your lower jaw to the bones in the upper chest, the neck when injured can cause extreme discomfort and make daily movements painful and difficult.

There are few areas of the human body more complex than the neck. Packed with nerves, arteries, blood vessels, and lymph nodes, the anatomy of our necks are shocking layered and intricate.

Whiplash Definition

Whiplash gets its name from the motion of a whip, as it moves back and forth very fast and is defined as a rapidly violent back and forth movement of the neck. Typically caused by car crashes, getting hit in the head from a falling object or even an intense roller coaster ride.

Whiplash happens when the ligaments and muscles in the neck are torn and or starched. Neck stiffness, pain, vision problems or dizziness, and headaches are common symptoms. Some people may experience memory loss, ringing in the ears, and pain in the shoulders.

Anatomy of a Whiplash Injury

The neck is a very complex network of muscles, ligaments, arteries, blood vessels, and bone. Within the neck is the cervical vertebrae called the cervical spine, which is made up seven bones.

These seven bones of the cervical spine are C1-C7. C1 and C2 are referred to as the atlas and axis respectively, and the joint between the two bones allow rotation movement. The semispinalis capitis, splenius capitis muscles, sternocleidomastoid, and the levator scapulae are common muscles stretched, ripped and damaged that cause whiplash.

Whiplash not only causes damage to the intricate network of muscles in the neck, but the ligaments in the neck suffer considerable damage. Three of the most common ligaments in the neck that suffer damage are the ligamentum flavum ligament, posterior longitudinal, anterior longitudinal ligaments. Depending on the severity the damage sustained from the injury, whiplash pain may reach as far as the trapezius muscle in the back.

whiplash injuries

Cervical Sprains vs. Cervical Strains

What is a Cervival Sprain?

A whiplash injury will result in either a cervical sprain or a cervical strain. Both are painful and treated similarly. Sprains are diagnosed when damage is suffered to the soft tissues of the neck.

Ligament, tendons, and muscle tissue that is irritated and result in classic whiplash symptoms. The inability to maintain good posture, pain from rotation movements in the neck, and head and headaches.

What is a Cervival Strain?

Like cervical sprains, strains are caused by damage to the soft tissues in the neck, including tendons, muscles, and ligaments. The difference with cervical strain is the soft tissues are stretched or even torn, which result in more pain and longer recovery time. Symptoms of cervical strains include headaches, stiffness in the neck, dizziness associated with vertigo, swelling, and bruising. A healthcare professional will assess symptoms and perform an x-ray or MRI to determine the extent of the damage.


Whiplash recovery focuses on pain management and restricting movement. Whiplash injuries will heal over time, however, some things can be done to manage the pain during the healing process.

Physical Therapy

Cervical strains with sever tears and stretches may require patients to wear a cervical brace, that will support the neck and prevent movements that can prolong the healing process.  Massaging the neck and back can work wonders in pain relief and make the healing process more comfortable to endure. Stretching the neck and back can also help with mobility and flexibility.


Muscle spasms are also a common symptom of strains, and physicians may prescribe muscle relaxers. For pain management, physicians may recommend ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or prescription pain medicine.

Acetaminophen is the brand name Tylenol and will help with the pain and any swelling. Acetaminophen is typically not as harsh on the stomach as ibuprofen and is recommended as an alternative to ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen is the brand name Advil, Motrin or Aleve, and help with pain and swelling as well. Ibuprofen is typically stringer than acetaminophen but generally is harder on the stomach.

Using a hot or cold pack can also help with pain and swelling. You can use a reusable ice pack or hot pack, or a warm towel to apply to the neck area.


Once the pain has subsided, your physician may recommend physical therapy to increase the strength on the neck muscles.


Whiplash to neck is a common injury the effects more than two million Americans annually. While most common from rear-end car accidents, whiplash can occur from any motion that causes your neck to move violently back and forth.

If you have suffered an injury from a car accident or other physical activities, don’t ignore symptoms and consult a physician immediately. Contact Absolute Life Wellness Center to schedule an appointment with one of the top chiropractors in the Austin, Texas area.