Due to its treatment in the media and common-sounding name, whiplash is often considered a minor injury by those outside the medical profession. In truth, whiplash refers to a severe soft tissue injury that can lead to chronic pain and a host of other debilitating symptoms.
Whiplash is most commonly suffered in front-end and rear-end vehicle collisions. In this type of accident, the body is violently thrown forward and backward against the interior of the vehicle and the seat belt. This jarring movement can put a significant strain on muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the body. The neck, however, often bears the brunt of this motion. A cervical strain, commonly referred to as whiplash, might take hours or days to show symptoms.
What are some symptoms of whiplash?
Some symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- A loss of the range of motion in the neck
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
- Tenderness in the back (particularly the upper back), the arms or the shoulders
- Headaches, sometimes chronic, which often start at the base of the skull
These are not the only symptoms, though they are the most common. Some significant symptoms that might indicate a more serious injury are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Blurred vision
- Memory problems
When should you seek medical help for whiplash?
It is important to get medical help immediately after a crash. While you might not have pain or stiffness right away, it usually develops within 24 to 48 hours.
If you choose not to go to the hospital following the crash, you should still go to the hospital if you begin to develop symptoms of whiplash. It's common for whiplash to have delayed symptoms, so you will still retain the right to file a claim for the pain and suffering whiplash may cause you presently and in the future.
How long does it take to recover from whiplash?
It depends on a number of factors. It's normal to have severe neck pain, headaches and trouble with the shoulders and upper back, so these are symptoms that have to be addressed. You might need to go through rehabilitation to realign the neck and back, to strengthen the muscles that have been hurt and to help reduce muscle spasms and other causes of pain and dysfunction.
Most people will feel better within a few weeks, but it is also possible to suffer pain and dysfunction for years after a whiplash injury. Getting medical attention is one of the few things that can help you get better faster, so make sure you get the help you need right away.