When you were driving home, you were suddenly involved in a car crash. You hadn’t expected it, because traffic was light, but you ended up going off the road and into a ditch. The first thing you noticed was that your neck was sore, but you felt like things could be worse.
It wasn’t until you developed severe headaches the following day that you realized you were hurt. After a medical exam, you were diagnosed with an acute case of whiplash.
Whiplash is an injury that happens after a sudden hyperflexion, hyperextension or rotation to the neck. It generally affects the soft tissues and is extremely common in rear-end or side-impact crashes.
How long does it take to recover from whiplash?
Depending on the severity of whiplash, you may have symptoms that resolve within a few weeks or chronic symptoms that last for months or years. Chronic whiplash-associated disorders have symptoms that are graded between 0 to 4, with 0 being almost no symptoms to 4 being symptoms of tenderness, pain and stiffness without a spinal cord injury.
What kinds of treatments are there for whiplash?
Whiplash treatment can include:
- Pain treatment with NSAIDs
- Pain treatment with opioids (in severe cases)
- Surgery to repair torn ligaments, reset dislocations or repair broken bones
- Physical therapy
- Behavior therapy
Are there complications of whiplash?
There are some conditions that can arise because a person is dealing with whiplash. For example, patients may struggle with anxiety, mood disorders or depression when struggling with chronic whiplash.
What should you do if you’re involved in a car crash?
If you are involved in a car crash, you may develop whiplash in the next 24 to 48 hours or so. Whiplash is one of the kinds of injuries that can be delayed, so you may not notice how badly injured you are until you’ve been able to begin to rest and recover.
When you’re in a crash, it’s smart to go to the hospital right away, even if you don’t think you’re hurt. A medical exam may show that you have overextended the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your neck. If a medical provider sees that you do have whiplash, then they can begin treating you for the symptoms long before the inflammation becomes severe. Early treatment may help shorten the recovery period, so you can get back to your normal life sooner.