What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash or Soft Tissue Damage?

February 14, 2022

Whiplash is a neck injury that may not appear immediately after an accident. Learn about the symptoms of whiplash or soft tissue damage and treatment options. 

There are different injuries a person in an accident suffers. These wounds have different severity, treatment, and recovery period. For instance, it takes longer to recover from head injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, etc. These wounds also cause chronic pain for the injured party.

Another injury that causes severe pain is whiplash or soft tissue damage. However, the severity of this wound depends largely on the impact and whether or not the injured person received immediate treatment. This is because waiting out the pain and applying ice may not be effective and result in long-term complications. 

This article takes an in-depth look into whiplash, its symptoms, and possible treatment options. Suppose your injury results from a negligent act. A Boston personal injury attorney at Kelly and Associates can help you get financial compensation. Contact us today to discuss the facts of your case.

What Is Whiplash? 

Whiplash is one of the most common forms of soft tissue damage. It is a neck injury caused by the sudden rapid movement of the neck. Whiplash injuries are common in automobile accidents, especially rear-end collisions. However, it is also a sports injury common in slip and fall accidents, physical abuse, and other traumatic events. 

Furthermore, whiplash is sometimes referred to as a neck strain or sprain, but the latter involves other types of neck injuries. Most people with moderate whiplash injuries involving muscle spasms recover within weeks if they follow the recommended treatment plan and exercise. But some people suffer chronic neck pain and other long-term effects that take longer to heal. 

Whiplash may be the most common soft tissue injury, but it is not the only type. Other known types of soft tissue damage are:

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries (ACL) 

An ACL aids the rotational stability of the knee joint by resisting the motion of the anterior tibia translation and internal tibia rotation. It occurs while performing a strenuous activity that involves jumping, landing, pivoting, or changing directions. You can also suffer an ACL while carrying out daily activities involving active movement.

This wound causes severe pain, loss of range of motion in the affected area, and feelings of instability. Most ACL injury victims require physical therapy to get better. Note that an ACL differs from joint fractures. 


This soft tissue injury affects the bursae, a small fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint’s bones, tendons, and muscles. Bursitis causes chronic pain if inflamed due to repetitive actions and overuse. Physical therapy helps to treat this injury by stretching and strengthening the muscles. 


It involves inflammation of or irritation of the tendon or fibrous cords that attach a muscle to a bone. Tendinitis commonly affects the shoulder, wrist, knees, and elbows. It is common among people who perform repetitive activities. 

Other types of soft tissue damage are:

  • Contusion; a muscle bruise resulting from a direct blow.
  • Muscle sprain; an injury to the ligament or joint capsule caused by overstretching.
  • Muscle strain; a traumatic stretching or tear of a muscle or a connected group of muscles or tendons.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash or Soft Tissue Damage? 

After an injury accident, traumatic injuries are easily noticeable. However, whiplash or soft tissue damage may not be immediately obvious because of delayed symptoms. Sometimes, it takes days after the initial injury. 

However, you can detect if you suffered whiplash or soft tissue damage if you know the signs to watch for. Some common symptoms include:

  • Severe neck pain and stiffness 
  • Persistent pain with neck movement 
  • Chronic headaches starting at the base of the skull
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Dizziness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Tingling or numbness in the arm
  • Tenderness and pain in the upper back, arms, or shoulder

Some whiplash patients experience chronic symptoms like:

  • Cognitive issues (e.g., memory loss)
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Depression 
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Irritability 
  • Difficulty concentrating

How To Diagnose Whiplash or Soft Tissue Damage

If you experience one of the symptoms mentioned above or find yourself unable to perform a normal activity because of the pain, it’s time to get medical care. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask questions to understand your pain level. The medical professional will ask you to move your head, neck, or arms. 

Afterward, they will perform an imaging test. Although a whiplash injury doesn’t appear in imaging tests, your doctor will perform it to rule out other medical conditions that could be making your pain worse. These tests include X-rays, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

Treatment of Whiplash or Soft Tissue Damage 

When you fail to treat whiplash or soft tissue damage, it might result in long-term pain. This is more so if the injury affected your cervical muscles, nerve roots, or cervical nerve roots. Therefore, you should get medical treatment once you feel pain after a whiplash injury. 

Whiplash treatments aim to control pain, restore the normal range of motion in your neck, and get you back to your normal activities. The treatment you get depends on the extent of your injury. While some people need only over-the-counter pain medication, other patients with whiplash may require prescription medication, specialized pain treatment, or physical therapy. 

If you feel pain after a whiplash injury, your doctor may recommend: 

  • Rest for a day or two
  • Heat therapy or cold therapy for 15 minutes every three hours
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen for mild to moderate whiplash
  • Prescription medication (some doctors recommend antidepressants to relieve nerve pain)
  • Muscle relaxants for a short period to relieve tight muscles and soothe the pain
  • Injections like lidocaine may be used for painful muscle areas to enable you to do physical therapy

Your doctor may also recommend range of motion exercises. These includes: 

  • Rotating your neck in both directions
  • Rolling your shoulders 
  • Bending your neck toward your chest
  • Tilting your head from side to side

Next, you may have to undergo physical therapy. Your physical therapist guides you through exercises to strengthen your muscles, improve posture, and restore normal movement. In some cases, you might undergo transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. (TENS).

TENS involves applying electrical current to the skin. You can also undergo alternative therapies like yoga and meditation to deal with the pain. Manual therapy is another approach medical professionals use to treat patients with whiplash injury. Manual therapy is a clinical approach based on skilled “hands-on” therapy to decrease pain and improve the mobility of joints, soft tissues, and nerves. 

Other non-traditional therapies that treat whiplash pain are acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and mind-body therapies. The latter does not only affect your physical condition but also psychological conditions. Finally, your doctor may recommend a soft foam cervical collar to hold your neck and head. If your physician recommends follow-up care, ensure you stick with it. 

Can You Get Compensation for Whiplash or Soft Tissue Damage? 

If your accident happened due to a motor vehicle collision or other negligent acts, you might be eligible for compensation. First, hire an attorney to file a personal injury claim against the fault party. If you win, you’ll get damages to cover: 

  • Medical bills 
  • Lost wages 
  • Emotional anguish
  • Physical pain and suffering 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Property damage (applicable in motor vehicle accidents), etc. 

Book a Free Consultation With Kelly and Associates 

Our Boston personal injury attorneys at Kelly and Associates have helped several injury victims recover compensation from the party responsible. If we’re able to take on your case, we will strive to get you fair compensation. Call today to book a free case review. 

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Michael D. Kelly has a diverse background that provides a breadth of legal knowledge that he draws upon in serving his clients. Kelly compiled an excellent academic record during his three years at New England Law in Boston.