If you’ve been in a car accident, whiplash is the most likely injury you’ve suffered. This is especially true if you were rear-ended, but it can occur in any car accident, as well as events like a fall or a sports injury. Whiplash refers to the sudden back and forth motion of your head upon impact, and the condition known as “whiplash” is actually a cluster of symptoms that can appear in the period following this motion. The condition can present in a variety of ways, making it easy to miss if you have less common symptoms. If you haven’t already been to a whiplash chiropractor and begin to notice these signs, seek treatment to begin healing properly.
Understanding How Whiplash Occurs
In order to understand the symptoms associated with whiplash, it is helpful to understand the mechanism of whiplash itself, how it can impact the body and how long does whiplash last. Whiplash usually occurs during a heavy impact like a car accident, sports injury, or hard fall.
The mechanism of whiplash usually involves uncontrolled force flexion followed by hyperextension of the neck. In other words, it is when the head moves forward suddenly and then jolts backward. Because of the weight of the head, this unnaturally fast and harsh movement impacts the delicate structures of the neck. The neck is made up of 7 bones, called vertebral bodies, that are stacked on top of one another and separated by discs that act as a shock absorber. Ligaments then connect bones to other bones, offering structural support, while muscles provide stability and motion. In the middle of the spinal column sits a bundle of nerves called the spinal cord.
The harsh motion of whiplash can cause strains and tears to any of these tissues, which impact the entire area due to their interconnected nature.
Most Common Signs of Whiplash
Whiplash symptoms may not appear for hours, or even days, after your accident has occurred. Once the adrenaline and shock begin to wear off, you may begin to notice the telltale signs of whiplash.
Neck and shoulder pain are almost always present due to the damage sustained in the area. It is often accompanied by stiffness that prevents you from easily moving your head, neck, or shoulders. It may even feel like your head is “stuck” in place, which almost always means a whiplash chiropractor is needed to help with alignment.
Headaches are also extremely common during this time period. This may be due to an accompanying head injury, like a concussion, or simply because of the tension in the surrounding area.
Less Common Signs of Whiplash
In addition to the common symptoms, there are a number of other symptoms that some people may experience as a result of whiplash. If you don’t exhibit these signs, you still can have whiplash, however, they are still something to look out for and bring up to your whiplash chiropractor.
Sensory Signs: Whiplash can lead to a constant ringing in your ears, known as tinnitus. This can be a sign of nerve or even brain damage that occurred during your injury. With treatment, the ringing usually goes away, though untreated damage can cause permanent impacts to hearing. You may also notice vision problems like blurred or double vision, which may indicate brain impact like a concussion or other complications related to whiplash.
Trouble Chewing and Swallowing: The hyperextension of your head and neck during whiplash can lead to a misalignment or damage to the soft tissues surrounding the neck. These are often closely related to the jaw, which can lead to pain and difficulty eating, or even speaking and yawning.
Achy or Tingling Throughout the Body: A tingling sensation, similar to when your foot or hand “falls asleep” can indicate that whiplash has led to nerve damage in your cervical spine. This damage can intercept the messages your nerves are supposed to send, leading to a numbness or tingling in the extremities or causing general achiness throughout the body.
Whiplash Prognosis and Treatment
In the majority of cases, whiplash symptoms eventually go away altogether with treatment from a whiplash chiropractor, typically within three months. Some people have chronic symptoms that require further management.
Until you are recovered, your doctor will likely use a combination of chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, pain management, and home remedies to help your neck regain strength and range of motion. At AICA Snellville, our whiplash chiropractors will develop a plan specifically suited to your symptoms to ensure a fast and efficient recovery. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment!