Whiplash after a Vehicle accident – a Guide for Patients

One of the most common vehicle accident injuries people could get is whiplash. If you suffer this kind of injury, your neck muscles suffer a strain or sprain due to the neck moving quickly forward and backwards in a collision. Annually, millions of people experience whiplash in car accidents. Read-end collisions usually cause this kind of medical issue because the individual’s neck is being rapidly thrown forward and backwards when their car is hit hard from behind. Studies show that people can sustain a whiplash injury even if they drive at 5mph. 

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is an injury to your muscles, tendons, and soft neck tissues. You can deal with this kind of injury when you experience a sudden and powerful neck movement, forwards, backwards, or sideways. If your head moves beyond its natural range of movement, the soft tissues connecting the spine to the head get sprained or overstretched. You can suffer from pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and back. 

Whiplash is often the result of a car accident, but it can also occur from physical abuse, sports accidents, or other similar traumatic events. 

Symptoms associated with whiplash

The symptoms associated with whiplash differ from one patient to another. You can experience mild or severe symptoms or have no symptoms at all. Pain from whiplash begins 6 to 12 hours after experiencing the traumatic event. You may feel uncomfortable on the day of the accident and find that bruising, pain, and swelling develop the following days. 

If you suffer from whiplash, you may experience some following symptoms. 

– Neck stiffness

– Neck pain

– Worsening of pain with head movements

– Neck tenderness

– Swelling in the neck

– Temporary loss of movement in the neck

– Reduced movement in the neck

– Weakness

– Headaches

– Fatigue 

– Blurred vision

– Muscle spasms

– Dizziness

– Pain in the arms or shoulders

– Needles and pins in the hands and arms

– Pain or numbness in the hands or arms

– Difficulties swallowing

– Difficulty concentrating

– Tinnitus

– Vertigo

– Irritability

– Sleep issues

– Memory problems

Most times, the symptoms improve or disappear within a couple of days or weeks. Depending on what symptoms you experience, you may need longer to feel better. Some patients feel stiffness and pain in their neck for months after the car accident. 

How can you tell for sure that you have whiplash?

No matter how severe the traumatic event was, it’s recommended to have a physical exam to ensure you don’t experience serious health issues. Visit the emergency room or your healthcare provider to get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, or X-ray to determine if you have whiplash and how severe its effects are. You should know that in many cases, the injury occurred within soft tissues and small structures that make it challenging to identify it in tests. Inform your doctor if you feel pain in the back or neck area because they can diagnose your whiplash solely from associated symptoms where there is no proof on scans. Symptoms are the primary way to diagnose a whiplash following a traumatic event. 

Who is more likely to get whiplash?

Some people are more likely than others to suffer whiplash in a car accident. The research identified the following factors.

– Being younger

– Being a woman

– Car being hit from behind

– History of neck issues

– Car hit while stopped

– Having a monotonous job that causes your muscles to stay tight constantly. 

How long does it take for whiplash to improve?

Most symptoms (neck pain, tenderness) go away within a couple of days. Severe symptoms could take three months to get better. Research shows that 15% of car accident victims experience persistent neck aches even after a year after the traumatic event. You’re more likely to suffer from whiplash symptoms longer if you

– Have a history of severe pain

– Pain develops immediately after being injured

– You experience neurological symptoms like memory loss

– You feel pain in your hands and arms. 

The more severe your symptoms are, the longer the recovery process takes. 

When to ask for professional help

You should see your doctor if you experience neck pain or any of the above symptoms after a car accident or another type of injury that could’ve harmed your neck. It’s essential to get an accurate and prompt diagnosis to rule out complex issues like broken bones or tissue damage that can make your recovery more challenging and trigger complex health problems. 

When someone else is at fault for your whiplash injuries, you can hire a personal injury solicitor to help you get fair compensation. They can estimate how much compensation you can get according to your injuries’ extent and guide you during the process. Make sure to provide the solicitor with all the paperwork documenting your health state so they can include the information in the compensation claim. 

How is whiplash treated?

The most effective method to recover from a whiplash injury is staying active and performing gentle neck exercises. If you reduce or drastically change your activity level, you can take longer to recover. You may have to adapt your activities during the first days to ensure that you don’t force your neck. Then you can gradually build up to your daily activities as your symptoms improve. 

Correcting your posture is crucial after a whiplash injury. Keep your back straight when walking, standing, sitting at the office to prevent pain and stiffness. If you spend long hours at the office, take a break every hour to stand up and move to prevent your back and neck from becoming stiff. 

Stay away from gym exercises that imply pulling, punching, or lifting because they can worsen your symptoms. 

Now that you know what having a whiplash implies, all you need to do is be patient and wait for your body to recover naturally. 


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