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Whiplash Injury: When To See a Doctor?

what is whiplash

6 million car accidents occur in the United States each year. As a result of these accidents, 3 million people are injured every year. 2 million drivers even experience permanent injuries after an accident.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries that result after a car accident.

What is whiplash exactly, how do you cope with it after your accident, and when you should see a doctor?

Keep reading to find out! We’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment you’ll need after experiencing whiplash. Continue reading this guide to learn more.

What Causes Whiplash?

First, let’s determine what is whiplash and how you develop this injury.

Whiplash is a common injury that occurs when your head and neck experience a sudden forward and backward movement. This sudden jerking often occurs as a result of the sudden acceleration/deceleration you experience during an auto accident.

For example, many people experience whiplash when they’re in a car that isn’t moving. When they’re struck by a vehicle from behind, the force causes the neck to hyperextend backward. Then, the head and neck recover from the force and are thrown forward.

Physical abuse and contact sports can cause whiplash as well.

A whiplash injury can involve damage to bone structures and soft tissues.

Whiplash associated disorders, on the other hand, are more severe and chronic.

The Symptoms

Now that we’ve determined what is whiplash, let’s cover the common symptoms of this condition. If you’ve experienced whiplash, you might experience:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Arm pain and weakness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Jaw pain
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Back pain

If you’re experiencing a chronic case of whiplash associated disorder, your symptoms might also include:

  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Insomnia/sleep disturbance
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Drug dependency

Some patients with whiplash injuries enter social isolation to cope with their injuries.

When To See a Doctor for Whiplash?

After you’re in a car accident, it’s essential to visit a hospital emergency room or a doctor’s office right away.

There, a medical professional can examine you to determine if you have injuries that require treatment. Ask your doctor, “what is whiplash” and see if you need X-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic tests, like the EMG/NCV nerve conduction tests.

Based on your symptoms, a doctor might determine you need a neck collar for support.

The X-rays will determine if you have a more serious injury. If the X-rays results are normal, but the pain persists, they might insist you keep the cervical collar on for about a  week. Then, you’ll return for new sets of X-rays.

You might need an MRI to detect soft tissue injuries as well.

The doctor will determine how to treat whiplash based on your symptoms.

Prolonged immobilization can slow your healing process. With this in mind, your doctor might suggest a range of motion exercises. These exercises can improve your systems and increase blood flow to the injured tissue.

Your doctor might also suggest pain relief medications, physical therapy, or heat/ice therapy as well.

Most patients recover within three months after experiencing whiplash.

What is Whiplash?: How to Cope After an Auto Accident

What is whiplash? To recap, whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden force. After a car accident, make sure to visit a qualified doctor for a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.

Call 1-800-897-8440 to find an experienced auto injury doctor near you and get back to health!