How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

Like with any neck injury, whiplash is diagnosed during a thorough examination by a physician. This examination will involve the doctor asking questions about how your injury occurred. Additionally, the examination will also focus on the symptoms you are experiencing.  

These injuries involve damage to soft tissue, which can be difficult to identify to the naked eye. In addition to a visual examination, your doctor may also rely on a range of tests to diagnose your whiplash injury. These tests could include CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging, among other things.  

If you have suffered whiplash in a car accident through no fault of your own, you might have a claim for financial compensation. A car accident lawyer could evaluate your claim and guide you on your best course of action.  

Common symptoms of whiplash 

Whiplash is the name given to a specific soft tissue neck injury. It occurs most often in car accidents where a driver is impacted from the front or rear. Whiplash occurs when a person’s head snaps back following a car accident then whips forward. This whipping motion can strain and tear the tissue in the neck and shoulders.  

The most common symptom for whiplash is stiffness and pain in the neck. This dull pain can worsen with movement of the head or neck. The stiffness that comes with whiplash can dramatically limit the range of motion in a person’s head and neck as well. In some cases, these injuries can result in muscle fatigue, numbness, or tingling in the arms. Under rare circumstances, whiplash can also lead to blurred vision, sleep problems, and tinnitus.  

Steps in the examination 

When your doctor evaluates a suspected whiplash injury, they will ask you to go through a range of movements involving your arms, neck, and shoulders. These steps involve simple tasks that are designed to test your range of motion. These tests generally evaluate your: 

  • Neck and shoulder range of motion 
  • Pain resulting from that motion 
  • Tenderness in the neck and shoulders even when not moving 
  • Sensation in your limbs 
  • Reflexes and muscle strength 

In the end, pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion are all signs of whiplash. While the process can be lengthy, treating these conditions is possible. Dedicated car accident lawyers can assist you in seeking compensation for the cost of this treatment.  

Testing to diagnose whiplash 

Although there are technological tests available to diagnose serious injuries, not all of them are useful for a person with whiplash. The most common test for a serious injury is the x-ray. However, x-rays only identify damage to a person’s bone structure. These tests have little use in cases of whiplash, as it is entirely a soft tissue injury. In other words, even the most severe cases of whiplash will not show up on an x-ray.  

The two most common forms of tests that are useful in detecting whiplash include CT scans and MRIs. A CT scan involves a form of X-ray technology. It captures images using these X-rays from different angles surrounding your body. The end result is a scan that provides information on not only bone damage but also issues with soft tissue and blood vessels as well.  

An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is also able to obtain detailed information about soft tissue injuries. This form of test uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to scan the entire body. These scans provide a comprehensive picture of a person’s organs and tissues. An MRI is one of the most accurate tests for diagnosing whiplash. 


For many, whiplash is a soft tissue injury that will go away over time. Not everyone suffering from whiplash is better after a few weeks, though. In some cases, whiplash can result in chronic pain or nerve issues that persist for years. Often, the condition is worst for those who are older, have suffered whiplash before, or were injured in a high-speed crash.  

Treating whiplash is primarily about controlling the pain. A doctor could prescribe pain medication or suggest alternating cold and heat. In some cases, injections, muscle relaxants, and chiropractic care are also prescribed. 

How an attorney can assist you 

If you have been diagnosed with whiplash following an accident, you could benefit from discussing your case with the dedicated car accident attorneys of Ellis Injury Law. At Ellis Injury Law, we are prepared to aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve. To learn more, call to schedule a free consultation.