What are the first indications that you may be suffering from a whiplash injury?

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If you have been involved in a fairly minor road traffic accident your first thought is likely to have been for the safety of yourself and your passengers. You may have checked to ensure that nobody appeared to have been injured and may be feeling relieved that you have, seemingly, escaped from the accident unharmed. However, you should be aware that in accidents such as rear end shunts (where one vehicle collides with the back of another vehicle) whiplash injuries are very common, but it is not always immediately apparent that you are suffering from the injury.

This guide looks at how whiplash is actually caused, why you may not immediately be aware that you are suffering from a whiplash injury and what symptoms you may start to experience that could indicate that you are suffering from whiplash.

What causes a whiplash injury?

A whiplash injury is caused, during the course of a road traffic accident, by the head and neck being suddenly and forcefully thrown back and forth causing the ligaments and soft-tissue in the neck to be stretched beyond their normal range of movement.

How long can it take for problems associated with whiplash to appear?

Symptoms of whiplash are not usually apparent straight away and it may be several hours, or even a couple of days, before you start to suspect that anything is wrong.

Within 48 hours of the accident, you may start to experience the symptoms of a whiplash injury.

First Symptons of Whiplash or a Neck Sprain

  • Pain, stiffness and restricted movement in your neck
  • Stiffness or soreness in your shoulders and upper back
  • Headaches, nausea or dizziness
  • Lethargy

It is important to seek medical advice as soon as you suspect you may be suffering from a whiplash injury. This will ensure that anything more serious than whiplash can, hopefully, beruled out and will also ensure that you receive expert advice on how best to treat your whiplash injury. Treatment will often be in the form of gentle mobility exercises and painkillers, though if your symptoms persist you may be advised to undergo a course of physiotherapy.

These days cervical collars are rarely administered to patients with whiplash injuries as it is thought that restricting movement of the neck in a patient with whiplash can actually exacerbate the injury and delay recovery.

Whiplash injury recovery

Most people who sustain whiplash injuries make a full recovery from the injury within several weeks of the accident. In more uncommon cases, full recovery can take up to 1-2 years and these patients are those that are likely to need physiotherapy. Some patients will experience symptoms that are expected to persist on a long term basis, however, this is very rare and only usually occurs where there have been complications arising from the original injury.

Do not be dismissive of your symptoms if you think you could be suffering from whiplash. Seek medical advice early on to ensure that your recovery process is not delayed and you do not risk causing complications to your injury.

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