Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

What is whiplash exactly? I had a car accident but no damage showed up on the MRI. If there's no injury then why is it so painful?

Answer:

Whiplash is a term used to describe the painful symptoms that can occur after the head and neck bend forward and back with force. Whiplash injuries occur most often with rear-end or side impact accidents. The energy transfer during the forceful movement is what causes the injury.

No findings doesn't mean there's no injury. Research shows the damage or injury is difficult to see with imaging studies. But there's no doubt that muscles, joints, and discs can be damaged. Not only that, but the inner ear, nerves, and even the brain and esophagus can be injured.

Tiny tears in these structures may be the underlying problem. We don't really know more than that at this time.

Pascal Madeleine, PhD, et al. Quantitative Posturography in Altered Sensory Conditions: A Way to Assess Balance Instability in Patients with Chronic Whiplash Injury. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2004. Vol. 85. No. 3. Pp. 432-438.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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