Whiplash involves injury to the neck caused by the sudden and forceful backward and forward movement of the head, such as what occurs in a rear-end auto collision. You may not think your whiplash pain is severe enough to see a doctor, but ignoring it can lead to more serious problems, especially if there is nerve damage, disc injury, or injury to muscles, joints, and ligaments in the neck.

Because of the possible complications associated with whiplash, it's important to be examined by a medical professional following an accident, even if your symptoms seem minor. Knowing the severity of your symptoms from the start can help get you the appropriate treatment and care.

What Research Suggests

Although most people who suffer whiplash injuries following an auto accident recover fully, those who report really bad neck pain and stiffness are more likely to have lingering problems a year later, according to a Danish study. People who show more restricted neck movement after an accident appear to be at increased risk for continued disability. Individuals who complain of less severe pain and neck stiffness usually recover within a month or two.

Recognizing Symptoms Early

Early symptoms of whiplash injury often include weakness, fatigue, problems sleeping, ringing in the ears, and blurred vision. Generally, you feel whiplash pain in the head (particularly at the base of the skull), neck, or shoulders, but the pain can later travel to the jaw, arm, and back.

If you think you have whiplash, a doctor or chiropractor will examine your neck and spine for tenderness and tightness and may order an x-ray or MRI. As part of the exam, a medical professional will evaluate your spinal alignment, posture, and the way you walk and move.

Being Aware of Potential Complications

Neck pain can be debilitating, and for those who don't recover from whiplash quickly, symptoms can continue to affect everyday tasks. Even if it seems like a minor injury at first, untreated neck pain can cause long-term complications including chronic headaches, chronic pain, and spine fractures. In addition to suffering significant pain, you may feel a pins and needles sensation or have trouble moving your arms. The associated chronic pain can lead to other complications such as anxiety and depression.

What Treatment Involves

When the impact of a collision causes the vertebrae of the spine to become misaligned, a chiropractor at centers like Arizona Injury Centers /Accident Chiropractic uses manual manipulation to return the vertebrae into their normal positions. If there is no abnormal spinal alignment, beginning range of motion exercises within days of the accident can help speed the healing process and restore movement. Loss of range of motion can cause increased pain and stiffness. Therapeutic massage, gentle stretching exercise, and strength exercise increase blood flow to injured soft tissues, help strengthen muscles, and make movement less painful.