If you’ve ever been in a rear-end collision, you may be familiar with the experience of whiplash. When the vehicle strikes your car from behind, your head will first jerk forward with the impact and then snap backward at the abrupt stop of the car. Sometimes, your head may even slam into the headrest behind you.
This sudden impact and jarring of your body can cause damage to the muscles and tendons in your neck, a type of neck pain called whiplash. Whiplash is commonly associated with car accidents, especially rear-end collisions, and can be diagnosed using a CT scan or MRI. If you’ve been in a car accident and are worried about whiplash, here is what it will feel like.
Whiplash Immediately After the Accident
As soon as your car comes to a stop, you may notice neck pain or develop a headache from all the jarring motion. Depending on whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt, your body may have jostled significantly. You may need to also be assessed for a concussion if you bumped your head on the steering wheel or headrest.
However, it is also common to be symptom free right away, as your body might be slow to react due to the shock of the incident. In this case, you may be tempted to think “I’m okay” and continue going about your day. But pay close attention to the development of any further symptoms.
Delayed Whiplash Reactions
For many, symptoms of whiplash may develop in the hours or even days after a car accident. If you notice something doesn’t feel quite right but you can’t put your finger on it, you may want to reach out to a doctor for an examination of the neck and spine to rule out whiplash or other injuries.
Because of adrenaline rushing through your body after an accident, your symptoms may be masked until you are able to calm down and truly assess your body after the crash.
What You Feel with Whiplash
Because the muscles and tendons in the neck are overstretched and even torn due to the sudden motion, pain and stiffness are the most common experiences with whiplash. The pain comes from the hyperextension of the muscles and any soft tissue damage in the neck and surrounding areas.
As your body reacts to the strain, you may experience swelling and inflammation in the area as well. The muscles of the neck and upper back can often feel very stiff and you may have difficulty turning your neck from side to side or up and down.
This decrease in range of motion can also be accompanied by pain and your muscles may feel tender or knotted. Headaches are also extremely common with whiplash because the brain was likely also jostled due to the impact.
Other Things You May Feel with Whiplash
In some cases, you may experience less-common symptoms with whiplash due to the severity of your injury. When nerves in the spine and neck are disturbed, this may result in a tingling feeling that radiates from your neck and down your arms to your fingers.
You may also experience the sensation of “pins and needles” in your neck, shoulders, and other areas, which is also related to pinched or damaged nerves. Concussions are common in tandem with whiplash, and if you experience any dizziness or ringing in your ears, be sure to mention this to your doctor.
Diagnosis and Treatment
At AICA Orthopedics, our car accident doctors and multi-specialty medical team have the knowledge and experience to accurately diagnose your injury and develop a proper treatment plan for you. We use state-of-the-art digital imaging along with a physical exam to identify damage. This helps us best address your symptoms and promote full healing.
After speaking with you about your experience, your symptoms, and completing a comprehensive physical exam, our doctors may also use a CT scan or MRI to develop additional information and imagery about your diagnosis.
Our doctors at AICA develop individualized treatment plans for each patient to address your specific diagnosis, symptoms, and health in order to get you on the road to recovery as swiftly as possible. Give us a call today!