Because of how common the condition is, you may immediately wonder about whiplash if you’ve been through a car accident. It’s likely that any ache and pain in the aftermath makes you question your health. So how do you know when you’re suffering from whiplash as opposed to general soreness? Only a whiplash chiropractor can officially diagnose you with the injury, but it’s important to identify the signs of whiplash so that you know when help is needed. If you’ve never experienced whiplash before, read on to understand what might be signs you’re suffering from the condition.
What Is Whiplash?
Even if you’re familiar with the term whiplash, you may not understand exactly what causes it to happen. When your head moves backward and then forward very suddenly and forcefully, the spine and tissues are stretched in unnatural ways. This can lead to strains in the neck tissue, known as whiplash. This most commonly occurs as a result of the impact in a car accident, though it can also result from sports injuries, physical abuse or trauma, and other scenarios that involve a jolt.
When Does Whiplash Pain Start?
Though the injury occurs upon impact, whiplash is not always apparent for hours or even days after the accident has occurred. It is actually considered one of the delayed injuries after a car accident. You may immediately notice neck pain or a headache, but very often this is not the case. Car accidents can often lead victims to feel shocked, or even to begin producing extra adrenaline, which can mask any symptoms or pain. It’s very common to feel fine and continue activities in the aftermath of an accident, unaware of the whiplash that has occurred.
Any signs of whiplash in the weeks following an accident should be considered potentially serious and evaluated by a whiplash chiropractor.
Signs of Whiplash
The most common sign of whiplash is neck pain and stiffness as a result of the damage to the muscles and tendons. This can radiate to the shoulders and upper back, and it may worsen with movement or certain positions. As a reaction to the strain in the body, it is also likely you will see swelling and inflammation in that area, which can make it even more difficult to move the neck side to side or up and down. Dizziness, blurred vision, headaches that begin at the base of the skull, and constant weariness are also signs that whiplash has occurred.
While those signs are most likely, there are other symptoms that are less common but can be indicators of whiplash. Problems with concentration and memory or focus, trouble sleeping, and irritability are all possible. Ringing in the ears may also be present.
Many symptoms of whiplash are manageable, but certain things require immediate attention. If your symptoms spread to your shoulders and down your arms, moving your head is painful, or you feel numbness and weakness in the arms, you should follow up immediately.
While you will likely be able to identify whiplash through symptoms or a discussion, it is important to see a whiplash chiropractor as soon as possible following an accident. One reason is to rule out any other injuries, like fractures or concussions, and ensure that whiplash is the main issue. From there, you can begin a treatment plan to reduce pain and repair the damage to your tissues. Your doctor will likely start by asking you questions about your injury and your symptoms and go on to perform a physical exam. If more information is needed, you may be sent for diagnostic imaging.
The good news is, whiplash is fairly simple to treat and likely to be completely healed over time. You may be instructed to use over the counter medication and heat or ice therapy to manage symptoms at home. Other treatments will include chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy to help you regain strength and prevent further injuring the area.
Many people associate whiplash with the need to wear a foam collar or brace, but this has become less common in recent years. Instead, it is best to allow the neck to move and acclimate to normal life while still being careful.
If you believe you have suffered from whiplash, it is crucial to seek care from a whiplash chiropractor as soon as possible to rule out other injuries and begin treatment. At AICA Orthopedics, we specialize in car accident victims and treat whiplash daily. Our team of specialists will do a thorough evaluation and create customized treatment plans for each patient with the goal of a quick and safe recovery. Contact us today for your first evaluation.