Diagnoses and symptoms

Whiplash injury

The symptoms of whiplash injury, such as headaches, often occur with a slight delay after the accident. A neck brace is an appropriate device in the initial period after the accident.

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Causes, symptoms and treatment

Whiplash is a traumatic injury of the cervical spine. A rear-end collision is a common cause of a whiplash injury. Sometimes the patient only notices the pain hours or days after the accident.

A distinction is made between four degrees of severity. Headaches, dizziness and in some cases nausea are clear indications of whiplash injury.

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Traffic accidents are the most common cause of whiplash injury. Most cases are due to a rear-end collision, in which the head and cervical spine are abruptly and severely flexed and then overextended. However, a whiplash injury of the cervical spine may also occur during sports and recreational accidents.



In most cases, the symptoms of whiplash injury only occur after several hours. They vary considerably between individuals. The symptoms described below occur simultaneously but may also be seen individually. Often the affected individual experiences headaches, dizziness, nausea and a feeling of stiffness and pain in the nape of the neck, radiating to the head and shoulders. Some affected individuals experience impaired vision and sleep disturbances. Neurological deficits are rare.

Degrees of severity

Degrees of severity

A whiplash injury can be assigned to various degrees of severity. This is determined on a scale from 0 to 4 by asking questions of the affected individual. The numbers indicate the following:

  • 0 = no symptoms,

  • 1 = neck stiffness and headaches,

  • 2 = neck stiffness, persistent muscle tension and limited range of head motion,

  • 3 = neurological deficits in addition.

  • When the degree of severity is 4, this is a severe whiplash injury with pronounced muscle tension, vertebral fractures and sprains.



A whiplash injury is diagnosed and the degree of severity is determined by the doctor after a detailed assessment, thorough anamnesis (medical history) and with the help of imaging procedures.



As a rule, whiplash injury is treated using conservative methods with special physiotherapy for the cervical spine and pain medication. Treatment with an orthosis (neck brace) is often provided in the first few days.

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