• Injuries & Treatment

What Happens When You Get Whiplash?

What Happens When You Get Whiplash?

When you get into an accident, there's a lot to process.

Not just insurance and damage, but also longterm injuries to your body that might not always be apparent right away.

Worried about the damaging effects of an accident both short term and long term? If you have ever been in a rear-end car accident you may have experienced whiplash. Find out what happens during this injury and what you can do.

What is Whiplash?

This is a term for when your head and neck experience an extreme back and forth movement unexpectedly. It can happen during a car accident or sudden fall as well as sports such as biking, horseback riding, and football. Most contact sports can result in some form of whiplash.

Often what happens is your body is thrown forward or backward and your neck and head will follow either the same or opposite direction. It causes a jerking motion forward (flexion) and/or backward (extension).

If your head is turned during the whiplash, the injury is much more damaging.

Symptoms of Whiplash

When you get whiplash, you may feel pain in your neck and head of varying degrees. The pain could also show up days, weeks, or months after the accident. The severity of the aches and pain can depend on the extent of the injury.

Since you may not experience symptoms right away, you should see a medical professional shortly after you've been injured.

Damage to joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerves are all part of a whiplash injury. More directly this leads to neck pain and stiffness. You may have muscle spasms or experience burning or tingling sensations. Over time this could result in dizziness and headaches.

When someone suffers from a severe head and neck injury they may experience memory loss or depression. If the pain persists they may also struggle with insomnia and ongoing fatigue. You may have experienced damage to your brain if you have trouble concentrating and remembering things.

The pain may also spread to other parts of your body including your shoulders and back. If you are experiencing jaw pain you may need your jaw to be reset. If left untreated this could cause uneven wear on your teeth.

In addition, your throat might experience tightness and you may have difficulty chewing and swallowing.

How You Can Get Treatment

Most of the time whiplash isn't reported. People may not consider it a severe injury. However due to the complex nature of the head and neck, including the brain, as well as how fragile these muscular systems are, it's important to not take this injury lightly.

If you don't seek treatment right away or if you let it go untreated, a whiplash injury can lead to permanent damage. You should consult with a doctor such as a chiropractor. They can provide adjustments and exercises as well as recommend further treatment such as acupuncture or massage therapy for damaged muscles.

One of the first things your doctor will do is probably take an x-ray to make sure no bones were broken or fractured. An MRI or CT scan will help your doctor make sure you don't have a herniated disc or serious tears in your ligaments. Without a full assessment, it's difficult to know how badly you were injured.

It's possible that minor whiplash will heal on its own. However, it's difficult to determine how severe the damage is. If you are experiencing symptoms well past six months it is considered chronic.

You might require physical therapy to heal. Don't miss an appointment and be strict with yourself about following treatment plans.

If you have a pinched nerve and ongoing pain, surgery may be considered. However, this is rarely a necessary treatment for someone with whiplash.

What To Do for Instant Relief

Apply alternating heat and ice packs to the painful areas for 15 minutes each at a time. You might also consider taking some form of pain medication to relieve the symptoms. Don't overextend yourself after dulling the pain as this could cause further injury.

Are You Eligible for Compensation?

Depending on the nature of the injury, you may be eligible to be compensated. If it was from an accident or assault, then you should make sure to hold on to all your documentation as you seek medical treatment.

You can start this process by seeing your general care practitioner and describing your symptoms to them so they are recorded. Next, you should consider meeting with a lawyer to see what your options are and if you have a case.

Typically personal injury lawyers won't require payment until after they've determined that you have a case. Then they will often only collect money if you do. So the expense of hiring a personal injury lawyer shouldn't dissuade you.

It may not be easy to get fair compensation from an insurance company. But with the help of a lawyer, you may be able to get what you deserve. Since whiplash recovery treatment can become quite expensive, it's certainly worth the effort.

Avoid Injury to Your Head and Neck

It's not always possible to avoid an injury when it happens unexpectedly, but there are some simple steps to decrease the severity.

For example, since whiplash most often occurs during rear-end car accidents, you should always wear your seatbelt correctly. You should also keep your headrest raised and not too low to support your head. Don't drive in a reclined position either.

For sports players, you should always wear proper equipment to protect your head and padding. There are also techniques you can learn to better protect yourself during an impact.

Want to Find Treatment?

Are you looking for care to treat your injury? If you've experienced painful whiplash and aren't sure where to turn, then you may consider our services.

The Inner Balance Institute's Dr. Shannahan was voted best chiropractor in San Diego, CA. Check out our website to learn more.