How long does whiplash last?

March 3, 2022

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Whiplash injury is one of the most common car accident injuries. However, it is not easy to detect this condition since whiplash symptoms usually arise a day or sometimes, a few days after the impact.

In today's blog post, we will discuss the basic things you need to know about whiplash injury-- What are the common symptoms? Does it require surgery? How to treat whiplash injury? How long does whiplash last?


What Is Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by sudden or forceful back and forth movement of the head. Whiplash typically occurs in rear-end collisions. However, whiplash can also be a result of sports accidents, physical abuse, and other traumas like slip and fall accidents.


What Are The Symptoms Of Whiplash?

As mentioned earlier, whiplash symptoms may be delayed for a day or more after the trauma. In addition, you may also develop one or more of the following symptoms, usually within the week after the trauma. These include neck pain, stiffness, neck movement loss, numbness in the arms, fatigue, dizziness, shoulder pain or discomfort, lower back pain, inability to concentrate or focus, irritability, and sleep disturbances.


So, how long does whiplash last?

No two bodies are the same, and the circumstances of each injury are different. Because of variations in patients' underlying health and the severity of injuries, there is no fixed timeline for recovery. The recovery time for whiplash injury depends on the severity of the condition. It is helpful to classify whiplash into two levels:


Minor Whiplash or Mild Whiplash

On average, it may take about 3 months to recover from minor whiplash, depending on the severity and other injuries sustained. For minor whiplash injuries, recovery time may not take that long, but a successful recovery still requires proper care, attention, and rest. Physical therapy Tampa can be helpful in these cases, even if it is not required.


Long-Lasting Whiplash

For more severe cases, recovering from whiplash can take longer. Long-lasting whiplash injuries usually require physical therapy to help manage the symptoms, improve range of motion, and prevent further injuries. Long-lasting whiplash can take several months or even years to recover from, especially if not properly addressed. Proper treatment and care are essential to prevent long-term damage and enduring pain.


Chronic Neck Pain

Chronic neck pain is one of the most common complaints of people with whiplash. Physical Therapy can help prevent a case of whiplash from turning into chronic neck pain.

However, there are other causes of chronic neck pain aside from whiplash. For instance, chronic neck pain can also be linked to other injuries like broken bones or injury to the cervical spine. If you are experiencing chronic pain in the neck, be sure to seek medical treatment.

What Happens To Untreated Whiplash?

Like other injuries, untreated whiplash can have serious side effects and can take a toll on the person's day-to-day activities. Delayed treatment can also worsen the condition. Here are some of the effects you may experience when whiplash is left untreated:

  • Stiffness and loss of motion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Spinal fracture
  • Chronic headaches and migraine

If you experience any of these symptoms and suspect that they may be related to a whiplash injury, seek treatment right away. Delayed treatment is better than no treatment, and physical therapy can yield substantial improvements to your daily quality of life.


Non-Invasive Treatments To Treat Whiplash And Reduce The Recovery Time

There are effective non-invasive treatments that can help manage whiplash symptoms and reduce the recovery time. In most cases, a person with whiplash can heal in several weeks or months once the neck soft tissues mend. However, most patients may still experience symptoms (moderate to severe pain in the neck and headaches) within three months after the car accident or injury.

Treating whiplash may include wearing a cervical collar as well as treatments such as cervical traction, chiropractic adjustment, medication, and physical rehabilitation.


Physical Therapy

Physical rehabilitation is one of the most effective treatment options for neck pain (neck strain or neck sprain), whiplash, and other auto accident injuries. PT programs may include active and passive treatments to help patients manage their symptoms and fully recover.

Keep in mind that the overall goal is to help patients get into active treatments. Active treatments are therapeutic exercises that aim to strengthen your body and provide more support to your spine.


Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is also one of the most effective treatments for whiplash. A qualified chiropractor can help treat whiplash by realigning damaged nerves.

Chiropractors may use different techniques like manual manipulation and mobilization, flexion-distraction technique, and instrument-assisted manipulation. A chiropractor will also give you some pointers or lifestyle coaching on how to prevent further injuries and recover faster.


Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help reduce painful symptoms. However, it is important to consult an experienced physical therapist before getting massage therapy. These healthcare professionals can help treat neck muscles and tendons.


Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is another effective technique that a physical therapist can use to help manage whiplash painful symptoms. This technique aims to liberate scar tissues. However, deep-tissue massage may not be suitable for patients with low pain tolerance.


Therapeutic Exercises

Therapeutic exercises can also help alleviate pain and discomfort. Experts recommend doing low-impact exercises and body stretching to stabilize your neck and restore mobility. Here are exercises recommended by experienced PT:

  • Isometrics
  • Neck bend
  • Neck turn
  • Upper back twist
  • Neck extension


Other Treatments

Other treatments for whiplash include:

  • Soft tissue manipulation
  • Functional exercises
  • Spinal decompression
  • Trigger point injections
  • Gentle, targeted stretches
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Electric stimulation
  • Ergonomics education and training


Final Words

Whiplash remains one of the most common auto accident injuries. Overall, the recovery period for this condition will depend on several factors, including the severity of the condition or the impact of the accident and the patient's history (if he or she has pre-existing injuries). But, the biggest factor is when and how you treated this injury. That's why it is important to visit an experienced physical therapist to get an accurate diagnosis and start the treatment right away.

If you are looking for a reputable Tampa physical therapist, The Right Spinal Clinic is your best option. We specialize in creating an individualized physical rehabilitation program. Chiropractic care is also one of our core services. Our goal is to help our patients manage their symptoms and fully recover in no time!

Call us now at (813) 392 2164 to schedule an appointment!

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