The physical effects of whiplash
Whiplash is a type of injury that occurs when your cervical spine (neck) moves aggressively in a backward and forward motion. The condition often develops in a car accident where you’re rear-ended by another vehicle, but it can also happen during sports or a fall. so What Are Long Term Effects Of Whiplash?
As your head snaps back and forth, you can sustain damage in any of the structures of your cervical spine, including your:
- Spinal discs
Whiplash can also cause damage to your nerves that results in persistent upper back, shoulder, neck pain, and other complications. If left untreated, you may be facing a variety of health issues in your future that limit what you can do.
Additionally, the injury can lead to other, more serious conditions such as:
- Chronic Neck Pain and Soreness
- Stiffness and Long-term Mobility Issues
- Chronic Headaches
- Vertebrae Misalignment
- Degenerative Disc disease
whiplash injury is the most common non-fatal injury associated with a motor vehicle accident and can even occur at speeds of less than 15 miles per hour. Symptoms of neck stiffness and pain usually appear in the days following the accident and can last for several months, often becoming chronic in 25% of individuals.
Untreated whiplash poses an increased risk for chronic pain and soreness, long after the injury or car accident occurs. When the soft tissues supporting your neck are damaged and you don’t seek treatment, scarring and inflammation develop and can severely limit your range of motion and progress into a chronic problem. You may also begin to develop loss of muscle strength or muscle atrophy, as well as physical changes in the neck muscles such as fatty deposits.
While most whiplash patients see improvement in their condition within several weeks or months of the injury, for those that do not seek treatment, chronic pain and discomfort can persist for several months and even years after sustaining the injury.
Loss of balance and Mobility
Pain and stiffness from whiplash or a neck injury can cause loss of mobility that prevents you from being able to perform your work duties or common daily tasks. The trauma suffered during a whiplash injury may damage or compress these nerves, causing loss of balance.
If left untreated, neck pain can progress and cause secondary conditions such as headaches, migraines and shoulder pain that radiates into other areas of the body. Chiropractors and physical therapists provide integrated therapies for shoulder and neck symptoms of whiplash from car accident and other injuries, such as chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, rehabilitation exercises, and more options depending on the degree and location of the pain.
Dizziness and vertigo
Tension in the neck can impede communication in the brain, which can lead to dizzy spells and vertigo. Vertigo can cause falls and nausea because it makes you feel as though you are falling or spinning while standing still.
whiplash from auto accidents can cause misalignment in the cervical spine and result in many cases of non-vestibular dizziness. It’s tough to know how anyone will recover from whiplash. You may be more likely to experience long-term effects after a more severe injury (affecting multiple body parts) or intense pain.
Older adults or people with previous back or neck injuries may be more likely to have difficult-to-treat pain or challenges during recovery from whiplash. Chiropractic care or physical therapy adjustments on the upper cervical spine can provide relief for vertigo suffers
Headaches, including Cervicogenic headaches, are common after whiplash injury, even after a minor rear end collisions.
Early after a whiplash injury headaches may be caused by overstretching of the ligaments and tendons of the upper neck. This is called a sprain or a strain. Typically, symptoms from sprain or strain will resolve within 6–8 weeks.
Headaches that persist for several months after sustaining a whiplash injury are usually attributed to that injury and usually require medication and physical adjustments or treatments to resolve
When symptoms continue it is a sign of a more severe injury. Approximately 80% of the time chronic headaches following a whiplash are due to an upper joint injury in the neck. These joints are called the facet joints. Approximately 20% of the time a chronic headache may be due to a disc injury in the upper neck.
Whiplash often causes the uppermost vertebrae in the neck to move out of proper spinal alignment, limiting an individual’s range of motion, inciting damage to these vertebrae, and even skewing normal posture.
When you leave your whiplash untreated, it can lead to a spinal complication called ‘vertebrae misalignment.’ It’s when your spine’s vertebrae slips out of place, causing neck mobility issues and resulting in limited communications between your brain and nervous system.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Clinical studies have also shown that whiplash injuries accelerate degenerative disc disease when compared with age matched controls, most likely due to tearing the annulus fibrosis. In this study, the shearing forces caused by the whiplash trauma were most severe at the C5-6 level, which is the most common level of disc herniation in whiplash trauma.
Severe whiplash may tear fine muscles in the neck, shoulders or upper back and contribute to the dislocation or herniation of the upper cervical spine. The trauma from untreated whiplash can trigger symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease that previously went unnoticed, such as upper back and lower neck pain, difficulty in stretching or moving the back, and less flexibility and resilience to day-to-day wear and tear. Discs between spinal vertebrae usually act as shock absorbers and help flex and bend the back, but with Degenerative Disc Disease, these discs are worn down and offer less protection from injury and movement.