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Diagnosing whiplash

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Tests and scans are not usually required to diagnose whiplash. The condition can usually be diagnosed from a description of your symptoms.

Visit your GP if you have recently had a road accident or a sudden impact to your head and you are experiencing pain and stiffness in your neck.

When making a diagnosis, your GP will ask you about your symptoms and details of how the injury happened.

Physical examination

Your GP may carry out a physical examination of your neck to check for signs of muscle spasms, tenderness and whether there is any pain when you move your limbs.

They may also decide to assess the range of movement in your neck if they think that your injuries are relatively minor and that moving your neck will not cause any further damage.

An X-raycomputerised tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will only usually be recommended if another problem, such as a spinal injury, is suspected.

CT
CT stands for computerised tomography. It uses X-rays and a computer to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.
MRI
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is the use of magnets and radio waves to take detailed images of inside the body.
Spine
The spine supports the skeleton, and surrounds and protects the delicate spinal cord and nerves. It is made up of 33 bones called the vertebrae.
X-ray
An X-ray is a painless way of producing images of the inside of the body using radiation.
Medical Review: October 12, 2010

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