You might use the word “whiplash” to describe circumstances that change very suddenly, and that description falls in line with how whiplash happens in an auto accident.
Typically, when your car is moving forward but stops suddenly, your head is thrown forcefully forward and then rapidly backward. The fast, forceful movement often strains muscles, tendons, and other tissues in your neck.
Dr. Jocelyn Idema and her highly specialized team at Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center treat whiplash, along with other problems that often lead to back and neck pain.
If you’re unsure whether you have whiplash, we can provide an independent medical evaluation following an auto accident. In fact, even if you feel fine, it’s a good idea to have an evaluation because symptoms may not show up for a day or two after an accident.
Take a moment as we discuss how whiplash affects you following a car accident. It’s important to recognize even mild symptoms of neck injury so you can get early treatment.
The word to describe what happens when you get whiplash is “hyperextension.” When your neck whips forward and then backward, the tissues of your neck are extended farther and faster than they’re designed to go, beyond your normal range of motion.
After returning to its usual position following hyperextension, your neck might not be properly aligned.
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury, which means the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and discs of your cervical spine (your neck) are injured. However, the effects of whiplash can go beyond soft tissues; vertebrae can endure damage, too.
Some people feel the effects of whiplash immediately, but others don’t. It can take hours or even days for the pain to begin. Getting treatment earlier makes it much less likely your pain will become chronic.
Symptoms to watch for after an accident
Whiplash symptoms can range from very mild to severely debilitating. Here are a few of the most common symptoms:
- Pain in your neck
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
- Difficulty turning your head
- Problems moving your head in a nodding motion
- Problems sleeping
- Tingling or numbness in your neck or arms
Whiplash can even cause symptoms that are seemingly unrelated. For example, researchers have found that nearly 35% of people who have whiplash experience depression in the year after their injury, and more than 20% have symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) months afterward.
Get help for whiplash
When you get treatment immediately after your injury, you’re much less likely to develop long-term problems.
Dr. Idema and her team provide a thorough evaluation, including X-rays and other diagnostic tests to determine whether you have whiplash. They use those results, along with your medical history, to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
The treatments for whiplash vary, but may include therapeutic massage, trigger point therapy, and spinal manipulation. We aim to tailor treatments specifically to your injury and your needs.
If you’ve had an auto accident, call or request an appointment here on the website — even if you feel fine. It’s far better to be evaluated now than to deal with chronic pain.