Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck. Sometimes it's called a neck sprain or neck strain. The injury occurs most often during a car accident. Injury to intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, neck muscles, and nerve roots can lead to neck pain, headaches, and other symptoms.
Symptoms may be present right away after the injury or they may be delayed for several days. The final outcome doesn't seem to depend on when the symptoms first appear.
Usually the prognosis for anyone with whiplash is good. The neck and head pain clears within a few days or weeks. Most patients recover within three months after the injury. A small number of people have neck pain, headaches, and other symptoms that last much longer.
Recovery may occur sooner with treatment. Treatment for whiplash may include drugs for pain and swelling, antidepressants, or muscle relaxants. A soft neck collar may be prescribed and worn for a short time. Range of motion exercises, physical therapy, and cervical traction may also be used. Later, limited heat may help relieve muscle tension.