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What Is the Difference Between Whiplash and a Concussion?

Jul 15, 2020

What Is the Difference Between Whiplash and a ConcussionEven a mild car accident can cause a variety of different injuries, from broken bones to organ damage. Two of the most commonly reported damages reported are whiplash and concussions, with these injuries coming up particularly often in rear-end collisions. While you may have heard of both whiplash and concussions, you may not know the difference between the two conditions, or the important differences between whiplash treatment and concussion treatment. While the two often occur together, knowing how to tell them apart can be important. Below is a guide to each and how to treat them.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a specific form of a neck strain caused by the sudden or forceful movement of the head and neck. This occurs when an impact causes the head to move suddenly forward and backward, leading the muscles and tendons in the neck to stretch and tear in one or more places.

The symptoms of whiplash may appear immediately but can take hours or days to begin after an accident. Indicators of whiplash include headaches at the base of the skull, tenderness in the head and neck, stiffness or loss of range of motion, or pain when moving. If you suspect whiplash, you should seek medical attention immediately to ensure no severe injuries have occurred. In the meantime, pain can be managed with ice and rest.

In a rear-end collision, whiplash is particularly common, especially when a seatbelt is being worn. While your torso is secured to the seat and restrained, the initial impact of the crash will cause your head to move forward and backward quickly, which is the easiest way to suffer whiplash.

What Is a Concussion?

When the head jerks during a collision, whiplash is the primary damage that can occur to your neck and shoulders. However, the brain is also jostled during this movement and it can bump into the hard surface of the skull. In some cases, the head may also strike the interior of the car and be further impacted by the windshield or dashboard. These types of movements override the protective fluid in the skull and can lead to damage in the brain.

While concussions are common, they should be considered a brain injury and therefore taken seriously. Signs may appear immediately or not become apparent for hours after the crash occurs. There may be physical symptoms of whiplash such as a headache, but the major signs to watch out for are cognitive. Confusion, memory problems, sluggishness, uncharacteristic clumsiness, and mood changes can all indicate a concussion. You may also find yourself unable to answer questions.

If you suspect a concussion, seeking treatment quickly is important as it can often be connected to other brain injuries and may worsen over time. Even if the symptoms feel mild, it is critical to seek medical care if you exhibit these symptoms.

Can I Have Both?

Even though they are very different, the cause of a concussion and whiplash are very similar. The same jerking movement in an accident could cause both tendons to tear and your brain to collide with the nearby skull. In fact, it is extremely common to have both whiplash and a concussion. This is one reason seeking care can be important, as you may visit the doctor to discuss one issue and uncover signs of the other.

If you have been in an accident and are experiencing symptoms of either whiplash or a concussion, AICA Orthopedics is here to help. We have a multidisciplinary team of specialists who are familiar with both conditions.

You will meet with a specialist who will perform a full consultation and, if necessary, imagine to diagnose any whiplash that may have occurred. This same consultation will look for signs of a concussion that may be present. Once it is determined whether you have one or both conditions, we will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Most cases of whiplash and concussions do not require invasive treatment and can be managed through a holistic approach. AICA Orthopedics offers chiropractors, orthopedic doctors, physical therapists, pain management specialists, and others who can work with you to determine the best plan to address your combination of symptoms.

Contact AICA today to work with our specialists on determining the most accurate and effective treatment, and begin your path to healing.

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