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How Long Does Whiplash Last?

Jul 29, 2020

How Long Does Whiplash LastWhile car accidents can have devastating results, the most common injury sustained in an accident is a soft tissue injury known as whiplash. Whiplash happens most often in rear-end collisions, but can be present after any high-impact accident. For many people, whiplash is not apparent in the immediate aftermath, but symptoms begin to appear hours, or even days, after the fact. If you may be suffering from whiplash, you should always visit a Tucker chiropractor to assess the extent of the damage. For most people, the whiplash will resolve quickly with a chiropractor’s aid, though it can lead to more extensive problems.

What Is Whiplash?

When your car is involved in a collision, your body will often involuntarily move as a response to the impact, jolting your head in one direction and then back in another. The sudden movement can damage the tendons and ligaments in the neck area, leading to whiplash.

For many people, whiplash will become apparent when they experience severe neck pain where their soft tissue was damaged. Others may experience stiffness or a lack of range of motion over time. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and a numbness or tingling in the arms can also indicate whiplash in many cases.

While the injury occurs immediately, it is very common for whiplash to go unnoticed for a period of time. The body’s response to an accident is often to release adrenaline that allows us to keep going, talking to the police, calling insurance, and getting everything taken care of before it slows down to realize there was an injury. It’s important to monitor your symptoms in the days following an accident before ruling out whiplash.

Recovering from Whiplash

For most people, whiplash is a manageable injury that can be healed entirely over time with the right care. The severity of the injury may depend on details of the accident, such as speed and angle. The majority of people who suffer from whiplash are able to recover within 6 months.

The first few weeks following the onset of whiplash are likely to be the worst in terms of pain and are also the most important period to determine how much a person will recover. Worse pain can often indicate a longer time dealing with the whiplash, and preexisting conditions may worsen the case.

The pain is typically treated with over the counter medicine when necessary, as well as chiropractic care to guide your rest and recovery. Keeping the head and neck mobile is usually recommended to help speed up healing, rather than using a brace or other method to prevent movement.

If whiplash does last longer than 6 months, it is known as chronic whiplash and may require additional treatment such as painkillers and physical therapy. A chronic case of whiplash can lead to additional symptoms such as jaw pain, neck spasms, weakness in the upper extremities, and shoulder pain. About one-third of people who suffered whiplash report some amount of neck pain ten years after their accident and a smaller amount report this pain for the rest of their lives.

Shortening the Recovery

While there is no way to officially confirm whiplash, scans and x-rays can be used to build out a medical record of your symptoms and in guiding a treatment plan. Not all cases of whiplash will look the same, and a doctor who specializes in these types of injuries will best be able to determine what treatment is best for your particular case.

Besides managing the pain, it is important to your recovery to follow the treatment plan you are given. Rest may be advised in the immediate aftermath of an accident, but you will likely be told to perform gentle exercises and keep movement in your neck, with proper pain management. In some cases, muscle relaxants may be used to help encourage this movement.

If you are struggling with range of motion, physical therapy can also be applied to help you rebuild your strength, as well as to prevent future injury.

Specialist Care

At AICA Tucker, our chiropractors are trained and experienced in dealing with injuries that have resulted from a car accident, including whiplash. By combining their expertise with the expertise of the physical therapists, neurologists, orthopedists, and pain management specialists in our practice, AICA Tucker’s team offers a comprehensive approach to your healing. Our goal is for you to recover as quickly as possible from your injury and to prevent any recurrence in the future. If you have been in an accident and believe you are suffering from whiplash, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule a consultation.


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