Also known as a neck sprain or neck strain, whiplash is an injury to the soft tissues located in the neck. This type of injury often occurs when a person is rear-ended in a motor vehicle, causing a sudden backward movement and forward movement to the neck joints and the upper back to overstretch.
Common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Pain with movement of the neck
- Upper back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Tightness or spasms of the muscles in the neck or upper back
- Dizziness and headaches
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Burning or tingling sensations
When you suffer a whiplash injury, you may not notice symptoms immediately after the car accident until a few days later. Most whiplash injuries will improve on their own, or with a small amount of basic treatment and medication.
According to several studies, the average recovery time is a little over four weeks—32 days, to be exact. Approximately 90% of people fully recover from whiplash within three months.
Long-Term Effects of Whiplash
On the other hand, around 10% of people experience symptoms that last six months or more, with a small and unfortunate minority experiencing chronic pain or headaches for years after the accident occurred. If whiplash lasts longer than six months, it is commonly referred to as “chronic whiplash” and is generally treated with prescribed painkillers and physiotherapy.
Pain that lasts this long is typically a result of deeper health issues, such as damage to the neck joints, disks or ligaments. Coincidentally, people suffering from chronic whiplash often get depressed, which can make it difficult for them to recover and continue with normal day-to-day activities, which can lead to other health issues.