Understanding Whiplash

About 3 million Americans sustain whiplash injuries each year. About 1.5 million Americans suffer chronic pain from whiplash.

What is whiplash? Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Whiplash is commonly caused by rear-end car accidents. But whiplash can also result from sports accidents, physical abuse, and other types of traumas, such as a fall.

 

Signs and symptoms of whiplash usually develop within days of the injury, and may include:

Neck pain and stiffness

Worsening of pain with neck movement

Loss of range of motion in the neck

Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull.

Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms

Tingling or numbness in the arms

Fatigue

Dizziness

 

Some people also have:

Blurred vision

Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Sleep disturbances

Irritability

Difficulty concentrating

Memory problems

Depression

 

How long does whiplash last?

Most commonly, whiplash is fully healed within about six months of the incident, but about one-third of people report neck pain ten years later. A smaller fraction experience chronic pain at the site of the whiplash for the rest of their lives.

 

What happens if you leave whiplash untreated?

Whiplash is no different. Like most other injuries, serious side effects can occur when left untreated: Stiffness and loss of motion. As well as chronic neck pain and stiffness, untreated whiplash can even lead to degenerative disc disease and vertebrae misalignment.

Complications

Most people who have whiplash feel better within a few weeks and don't seem to have any lasting effects from the injury. However, some people continue to have pain for several months or years after the injury occurred.

 

It is difficult to predict how each person with whiplash may recover. In general, you may be more likely to have chronic pain if your first symptoms were intense, started rapidly, and included:

Severe neck pain

More-limited range of motion

Pain that spread to the arms

 

The following risk factors have been linked to a worse outcome:

Having had whiplash before

Older age

Existing low back or neck pain

A high-speed injury

 

How does a doctor diagnose whiplash?

A: Your assessment will start with a physical exam. Depending on the results, a doctor might order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, or X-ray if they suspect whiplash. But for most people, the injury occurs within structures too small to be seen in these tests.

 

How does our clinic treat patients with whiplash?

Most commonly after your assessment, doctor’s examination, and x-rays; Dr. Walker typically recommends patients have some light physiotherapy which may include ice/ heat therapy, electromagnetic stimulation, rehabilitation to retrain the muscle tissue that has been affected by the trauma, and chiropractic adjustments.

 

Think you or some you love might have whiplash use our contact us feature or booking feature to request your appointment today.

Author
Casey Walker, D.C. Casey Walker, D.C. is the founder of R2 Medical Centers a medically integrated clinic, family-owned and operated in Lowell, Indiana. He has been practicing chiropractic since graduating from Palmer Chiropractic in Davenport, IA in 2005. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, cycling and fly-fishing.

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