Whiplash occurs when your head is rapidly forced backward and forward. The sudden movement causes your neck's muscles, tendons and ligaments to stretch and tear. This commonly creates significant ongoing problems.
We tend to think of whiplash as a result of a car accident, and while this is certainly one common cause, any trauma that results in an abrupt flexion-extension of the neck can be responsible. You may or may not feel much when whiplash occurs, and the full effects are not always noticeable at first, so it's important to pay attention to any changes for a few days following the incident.
So how might you know you've experienced it? Whether the signs are delayed or immediate, they could include:
pain and stiffness in the neck
headache, upper back and shoulder pain
pain, numbness or weakness in the arms
blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue and trouble swallowing
These signs can also indicate fracture, nerve damage, or other high-priority problems, so it's important to be examined quickly.
Whiplash effects can be short-term (acute), and can also be long-lasting (chronic).
With chronic whiplash the person may be aware they've had an injury which hasn't mended. Or they may be unaware whiplash is responsible for their symptoms. A combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), physical care and patient education has been proven to achieve the best results.
Either way, life can become harder; anxiety, depression, and mood disorders are frequent in people with whiplash. If this injury occurs when you're older, or already have neck or lower back pain, there's a greater chance of delayed recovery. This means an intensive treatment plan is usually needed.
As you can see, the impact of whiplash can be serious and ongoing. Seek prompt professional help - we know that fast treatment improves recovery. Your chiropractor can evaluate your condition and provide tailored advice and treatment.