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How do doctors diagnose whiplash?

After an automobile accident, victims must inventory their injuries. Even minor accidents may cause whiplash, and accident victims must know how the injury looks.

Mayo Clinic explains how medical professionals diagnose whiplash. Personal injury victims must understand the extent of their harm to seek proper compensation.

Physical examination

Doctors move a patient’s arms, neck and head during a physical examination for whiplash. The exam tests range of motion, movements that cause pain or discomfort, and tenderness in the upper body. Initial exams also test the patient’s strength, reflexes and ability to feel sensation in their arms.

Imaging tests

While imaging tests cannot diagnose whiplash, they can help doctors rule out other injuries. Computerized tomography scans create cross-sectional visuals of bone to pinpoint damage. X-rays uncover neck arthritis, dislocation and fractures. Magnetic resonance imaging tests build 3D images of the body using magnetic fields and radio waves. MRIs can uncover spinal cord, ligament and disk damage.


Medical care professionals ask about experienced symptoms to diagnose whiplash. They may ask patients to rate their pain and list accompanying symptoms. Car accident victims should share whether they use other treatments or take medication for their symptoms. Dietary supplements and herbal medicines count as medication.

It makes sense for patients to note how the car accident happened and share the account with their doctor. The more details physicians have, the more accurate a diagnosis they provide.

Car accidents cause various injuries victims may not realize. With a medical professional’s help, they get the insight they need to build a case and seek compensation.

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