Neck and Upper Back Pain Caused by Whiplash

Neck and upper back pain is most often due to more than one factor, such as an auto accident injury, poor posture, stress, subluxations, and in certain cases, disc herniation. Nevertheless, whiplash injury is by far the most common injury. 

A whiplash injury is sustained by either a backwards, forwards, or sideways sudden movement of your head. The result of such a traumatic movement is damage to your neck’s supporting muscles and ligaments. In addition, damage is often experienced in other connective tissue located in your neck and upper back. 

Whiplash symptoms include, but are not limited to: 

  • Neck pain
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Muscle spasms (back and front of your neck)
  • Tenderness (along the back of your neck and shoulders)
  • Difficulty rotating, flexing, or extending your head
  • Headache
  • Jaw tightness
  • Vision disturbance
  • Tinnitus 

All whiplash injuries should be taken seriously. This includes car, sports, and work accidents. It is common for whiplash injuries to be present for weeks, even months, before they are noticeable to you. People often mistakenly believe they are not injured because the symptoms and pain are not always immediate. Consequently, they don’t seek treatment or when treatment is obtained, serious complications have already developed and part of the damage may unfortunately be permanent. 

Studies have shown that about half of the victims of whiplash often settle their auto injury insurance claims, only to suffer from symptoms and pain years after their settlement. If you have been involved in any kind of accident, especially a car accident, don’t make the mistake of assuming you are injury-free because you are not experiencing pain currently. It is best that you have a chiropractor examine you for whiplash.


A colloquial not medical term, whiplash is a word used to describe any injury to the ligaments, tendons or muscles of the neck that results from a jerking or whip-like movement. Whiplash is usually caused by a car accident – an estimated one million cases a year – but it can also be the result of a fall, sports injury, work injury or assault. Sometimes, repetitive motion, such as holding the phone with your head can even cause whiplash. 

Symptoms of whiplash can range from mild aches that last a few days to severe pain and stiffness that won’t go away.  You could also experience swelling, headaches, jaw tightness, fatigue, nausea or muscle spasms. Severe cases of whiplash could include impaired vision, ringing in the ears and other nerve related symptoms. 

Treatment for whiplash can include application of heat or cold packs, pain medication or muscle relaxants, electrical stimulation and/or ultrasound. But these are all relatively short term solutions and may provide only temporary relief.  For serious cases, or those with symptoms lasting a couple months or longer, long term, more permanent solutions are needed. Those could include stretching, exercise and/or chiropractic manipulation. 

In brief, chiropractic manipulation works to return joints to their proper position and alignment through controlled and directed pressure. This is done by a trained, educated chiropractor in a therapeutic setting. In many cases, chiropractic manipulation can relieve pressure and pain in the neck area caused by whiplash. 

If you’ve experienced whiplash from an accident or injury, it is always a good idea to consult with your chiropractor, along with your general practitioner.  There is hope that pain and other symptoms of whiplash can diminish with proper treatment.