I call it the silent killer, because many of my patients who have had whiplash, never had pain after a car accident or a fall they have had, so they didn't even know they had whiplash.
Whiplash can happen even at low speeds of 7 miles per hour. It results from an abrupt change in the direction of movement.
Harsh braking or a collision can cause such an event, and it's worst when it happens unexpectedly. As you see another car just about to hit you, your body tenses naturally and protects joints from damage. If a collision comes as a surprise, your muscles are relaxed and your joints receive much more damage.
After you have had whiplash, you might have pain in your neck, or you can just be stiff, or even have no symptoms. Real problems often start 2-4 years following the accident. Generally it comes as a combination of neck and shoulder problems, but it can be accompanied by those of the elbow and wrist also. You may also have accompanying upper back and chest pains.
If you have had an accident, I strongly recommend that you see a chiropractor as soon as possible, as they will do chiropractic and neurology tests and can take an x-ray if necessary to determine the extent of the trauma and offer you a treatment to restore the function of the neck joints.
If you had an accident many years ago and are now suffering from headaches, neck, shoulder or elbow stiffness or pain, again go to a chiropractor. Your symptoms may be related to the whiplash you suffered.