While many people assume that whiplash, a common injury in car accidents, is not serious in the long run, the reality is that acute cases can impact people for many years or a lifetime.
In a car accident, whiplash occurs when the head is whipped forward or to the side quickly before being thrown back in the opposite direction. For example, if you’re hit head-on, your head will whip forward before whipping back against your seat or to the side against the window.
In low-speed, low-impact crashes, whiplash may result in nothing more than a sore neck and an annoying headache for a few days, but in more serious cases, it can cause long-term symptoms and dysfunction.
The long-term effects of whiplash
Some of the long-term effects caused by acute whiplash include:
- Numbness and/or weakness in the arms and legs
- Severe headaches
- Jaw pain
- Upper or lower back pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Memory and concentration problems
Remember, with the force of whiplash, it’s also possible for this injury to be paired with a concussion or other traumatic brain injury. That’s why it’s always a good idea to seek emergency care right away. Doing so will allow you to get help for any underlying bleeding, bruising or swelling to the brain. It will also help you get support to prevent some of the complications of leaving whiplash unchecked, such as severe pain in the neck and chest and further injury caused by swelling and using injured tendons, ligaments and joints.
You may need physical therapy, surgery or other treatments for an acute case of whiplash. If you’re injured, seek medical care as soon as possible.