Someone who has been involved in a car accident, particularly a rear-end accident, and when they are in the emergency room or the doctor's office complaining of neck pain or upper back pain, kind of the broad category for this injury is called a whiplash injury. What the doctor is really expressing is that, when someone is hit from the rear or they run into someone who's stopped ahead, there is the momentum of the body where the it is propelled forward and then backward again. And, it's that "whipping", the forward-backward, hyperextension-hyperflexion of the neck that is labeled as a whiplash injury.
Whiplash sort of covers a variety of injuries, when nothing specifically has been broken or nothing specifically has been found on an MRI. So, classically a sore neck or a sore upper back, sometimes the doctor will refer to that as cervical sprain. These are all part of a broad category of a whiplash injury. But whiplash can have very devastating effects. It's not always apparent when you're at the emergency room or it's your first doctor's appointment that there might be damage to the vertebrae in the neck. Sometimes after an MRI is obtained, we know that there's actual structural damage done in the neck and upper back, which is all part of a whiplash injury.
Whiplash shouldn't be taken lightly as many times it can lead to surgery. So, a whiplash injury sometimes sounds like it's a minimum or a minor injury but they really can be devastating.