Whiplash injuries can vary significantly from one person to another in terms of severity. Less serious injuries may result in virtually no symptoms at all whereas more severe injuries may include neck fractures, dislocations or even spinal damage.
If whiplash is suspected, a doctor will carry out a physical examination of the patient's head and neck to formulate their diagnosis. In addition, patients will also be asked about the symptoms they are experiencing and the circumstances of the accident.
If there is suspicion of a neck fracture, an X-ray will be performed immediately. However, even after an X-ray, it can still be difficult to identify the exact whiplash injury sustained as most injuries affect the soft tissues of the neck and therefore will not show up on an X-ray.
Depending on the severity and type of whiplash injury, specialised tests such as an MRI scan can also be carried out to assess the extent of injuries. These can include:
Normally a diagnosis will be made based on your history and symptoms, and by ruling out other possible ailments. However, if symptoms persist for more than six weeks following examination, patients may need to consult a specialist (such as a neurologist) who can help to diagnose their condition - specialist appointments can usually be arranged by the patient's doctor.