Whiplash Treatment

Whiplash is a relatively common neck injury that occurs due to sudden back-and-forth motion, reminiscent of a cracking whip. The snapping motion causes injury to the bones, muscles, tendons and nerves around the spine.

As a result, patients may experience immediate symptoms that can last for years. However, receiving medical treatment for whiplash can help patients recover faster.

The Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) has talented doctors who treat whiplash in Arizona. Visit our offices in Phoenix, East Valley, Scottsdale or West Valley for whiplash diagnosis and treatment. 

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Man rubbing his neck in pain after being in an auto accident
Medical staff at DISC showing patient X-rays
Model depicting whiplash

Common Whiplash Causes

Whiplash can occur in any scenario involving sudden, violent head and neck motion. The most common causes of whiplash are:

  • Accidents such as falls or automobile collisions
  • Injuries sustained in contact sports like football, ice hockey, boxing or horseback riding
  • Blunt force to the head from a heavy object
  • Physical abuse or altercations

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Patient Education Video

Symptoms of Whiplash Injury

Various symptoms are associated with whiplash. These symptoms may onset immediately after the incident or in the following days. The symptoms often worsen or last longer when the incident occurs at higher speeds.

Keep in mind that an incident causing whiplash can also result in a concussion.

Common Whiplash Symptoms

Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with whiplash:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck or shoulders that worsens with motion
  • Loss of neck mobility
  • Headaches that form around the base of the skull
  • Tenderness or soreness in the shoulders, arms or upper back
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

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Man holding his neck in pain

Rarer Whiplash Symptoms

The following whiplash symptoms are possible but occur less frequently:

  • Blurry vision
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

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A woman holding her back in pain.

Complications of Untreated Whiplash

While permanent damage from a whiplash injury is preventable, certain complications can arise. Neck and back pain can last for years, and some patients report feeling the effects for the rest of their lives.

Every whiplash patient’s situation is different, and determining which cases will result in prolonged pain and which will heal swiftly can be difficult. Many patients who experience long-term pain notice symptoms shortly after their incident occurs.

In any event, pursuing treatment for whiplash can minimize the chances of experiencing long-term symptoms. Without treatment, patients can endure years of symptoms like:

  • Sustained neck and back pain
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain that spreads to the arms

Additionally, prolonged whiplash complications are more likely for patients with repeat injuries of existing conditions that cause lower back or neck pain.

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Treatment for Whiplash Injuries

In many cases, the symptoms from a whiplash injury will fade with rest and time. Additional treatment can lessen the symptoms and help patients recover faster. Additionally, some more serious injuries may require professional treatment to heal. DISC offers whiplash treatment from medical experts in regions throughout Arizona.


Treating whiplash begins with a diagnostic appointment. Diagnosing whiplash can be difficult, as the condition more often involves injury to the muscular tissue than bones in and around the neck. Medical experts use a few different methods to look for damaged tissue indicative of whiplash:

  • X-rays or computer tomography (CT) scans: Images captured using ionizing radiation can reveal damage to internal tissue or vertebrae.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI provides detailed images of the body’s soft tissue.

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Woman having an MRI of her neck done


There are various spine treatments medical practitioners can use when treating whiplash. Factors like the injury’s severity, the patient’s age and tolerance for certain medications will influence the treatment the doctor recommends.

Many doctors will suggest self-care methods such as rest, heat application and cold or over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen to resolve whiplash symptoms. Other approaches like neck stability collars, physical therapy routines and osteopathic manipulation can expedite recovery.

Spinal surgery may be on the table if other treatments fail, a simultaneous injury occurs or the patient is at risk for other spinal complications:

  • Ruptured or herniated intervertebral disc: A discectomy that removes some or all of a damaged disc can resolve whiplash complications. Spinal stabilization methods like bone fusion or the installation of an artificial cervical may be necessary after a discectomy.
  • Patients with or at risk of spinal stenosis: Whiplash does not cause spinal stenosis, but it can exacerbate the narrowing of the spinal canal. A corpectomy or laminectomy can reduce pressure on the spinal cord after a whiplash injury.

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Doctors standing next to table of tools while working in the operating room
Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Schedule a Whiplash Consultation

If you’re experiencing neck pain after a car accident, sports injury or other sudden trauma, consult with a dependable whiplash injury doctor in your area. You can find a doctor who treats whiplash in Arizona at any DISC location. We prioritize minimally invasive treatments that get patients back to their normal lives fast. Schedule a consultation today to get started!


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