How to know when whiplash becomes chronic pain

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries following a car accident. For most, it causes short-term neck discomfort that goes away after rest. However, for an unlucky few, this injury will stay with them for weeks or months, developing into a chronic pain condition. 

Whiplash is caused when the soft tissue in the neck is strained from a quick back and forth movement of the head. It is commonly experienced in rear-end collisions and other car accidents. Still, it can happen when being struck or when falling, such as in a contact sports injury, a horseback riding fall, or in cases of physical abuse. 

How To Know If You’ve Experienced Whiplash

Whiplash often does not express side effects until several minutes or hours after the injury. Once the adrenaline in your system dies down, you may experience the following symptoms: 

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headache
  • Problems with vision or hearing
  • Pain in the upper arms or shoulders
  • Dizziness
  • Concussions
  • Fatigue or sleep problems
  • Loss of memory or ability to concentrate
  • Mood changes including irritability or depression

If you have recently fallen, were hit, or were involved in a car accident and noticed these symptoms, you may have suffered from whiplash. While these symptoms may go away on their own, it’s essential to schedule a consultation with your doctor. These symptoms could be a sign of a more severe injury or may develop into chronic pain in the neck that can limit you from living a normal lifestyle. 

When Whiplash Becomes Chronic Pain

Studies show that whiplash often results in long-term problems for the sufferer. Estimates suggest that 50-60% of those who experienced whiplash after an accident develop long-term symptoms including pain, muscle spasms, or limited range of muscle in the upper trapezius muscle (the one that contracts to stabilize the head during the trauma). Other common chronic symptoms of whiplash include: 

  • Prolonged pain or stiffness in the neck and shoulders
  • Vertigo
  • Chronic headaches or migraines
  • Degenerative disc disease and other cervical spine problems
  • Problems with mobility
  • Memory and mood disorders

Because doctors are still learning about whiplash and its effects, treatments are limited and become less effective the longer you wait to seek help. At PPOA, we take whiplash and other spinal injuries very seriously and urge you to seek help as soon as you start experiencing symptoms. The sooner you seek treatment, the more options you have and the less likely your whiplash symptoms are to become chronic. 

To learn more about whiplash treatment, diagnosis, and options in your area, contact your local PPOA clinic today.