In a car accident, a person’s head might get quickly whipped around from one side to another, otherwise known as whiplash. This soft tissue injury can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the neck and shoulders. In fact, whiplash is the most common car accident injury. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), it affects nearly 75% of crash victims.
Why Whiplash is So Common
Whiplash is so common and affects nearly 3 million people each year because it can happen in accidents at both high and low speeds. The most common type of accident where whiplash occurs is rear-end collisions where the front car is stopped. It doesn’t take a lot of force to cause it—a car travelling at just 5 miles per hour before the impact is enough. In most accidents where whiplash occurs, the airbag doesn’t even deploy because there wasn’t enough force.
Symptoms of Whiplash
After an accident, adrenaline courses through the body and masks any pain a person might feel. Many people in accidents don’t know they have whiplash until days later. Here’s what to look for if you’ve been in a car accident and think you might have whiplash:
- Neck stiffness and decreased range of motion
- Neck and back pain
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Cognitive issues
Symptoms could take days or weeks to appear. But you shouldn’t wait until you feel symptoms to see a doctor—you should go right after an accident to get examined for any injuries right away. Usually, an MRI or CT scan is required to diagnose whiplash.
The sooner you get diagnosed, the more quickly you’ll be able to recover. It could take anywhere from 3 months to a year to heal, and that’s if you get treated right away. If you put off getting treated, it could cause lifelong problems. According to NCBI, even five years out, whiplash victims can still feel pain and lowered quality of life from the injury.
If you start experiencing anger, anxiety, or depression as a result of your injury, you should tell your doctor. These symptoms could mean that the injury is more severe than originally thought.
How to Care for a Whiplash Injury
You will most likely require physical therapy to restore movement and strength in your neck after an injury like whiplash. You shouldn’t get a neck brace, though—that can actually make it worse. The best thing you can do for a whiplash injury is to rest for a few days, but don’t become completely sedentary. If you rest for too long, you actually weaken your muscles and then it takes longer to heal.
Make sure to stretch your neck and shoulders frequently, but not so much that it causes pain. Tilting your head from one side to the other can help stretch the muscles. Slowly moving your head in a circle from one shoulder, to your chest, then the other shoulder, is also a good stretch. If you have more shoulder pain than neck pain, you can move your shoulders in circles to loosen them. If you feel any pain from the stretches, you should stop stretching and rest.
If you’ve gotten whiplash in a car accident, you have a long road of recovery ahead of you. You shouldn’t have to worry about any of the legal aspects of the crash while you’re trying to heal. At Pittman Roberts & Welsh, we can help you with your case. Contact us today for a free consultation