Frequently Asked Questions - What Does it Feel Like When You Have Whiplash?
Pain as a result of whiplash injuries can consist of a variety of symptoms. The most common associated symptoms of whiplash injuries can include or be described as an ache, pain, and/or discomfort in your head, neck, and it can be felt on either left side, right side, or bilaterally, meaning both sides are affected, your mid back that can also be felt on either left side, right side, or bilaterally, and low back pain that can be felt on either left side, right side, or bilaterally and can be accompanied with tightness, stiffness, swelling, and/or tenderness to palpation in the injured area, or areas. Additional signs and/or symptoms of whiplash injuries may include headaches, muscle soreness, muscle spasms, muscle pain, and decreased ranges of motion of the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, or even all three. Other common associated symptoms due to whiplash injuries can include pain and discomfort that radiate to the upper extremities, such as your head, left side, right side, or up the back of the head, your shoulders, left side, right side, or bilaterally, and the lower extremities such as your hips, left side, right side, or bilaterally, buttocks, legs, and knees, that can be experienced to either left side, right side, or bilaterally. These symptoms can also radiate from your shoulders to your arms and down to your fingertips, or even your hips down to your toes, depending on the severity of the impact in the collision. Furthermore, the symptoms that may accompany a whiplash injury can include numbness, tingling, weakness, decreased strength, and/or mobility of any area that has been injured. These symptoms can be experienced on an individual basis or as a multitude of combined symptoms as no two people experience pain in the same way, or have the same level of threshold tolerance for pain.
Most often, and again, depending on the severity of the impact in the collision, and each individual’s tolerance for pain, someone may not experience symptoms of whiplash injuries right away as a result of the shock or adrenaline, while others may develop one or more symptoms immediately. The pain and symptoms of a whiplash injury can vary in severity by individual, and may be worsened with movement that can impede in a person’s ability to stand, sit, walk, bend at the knees, or the waist, lifting arms, and/or rise from seating to standing position, in turn affecting the activities of daily living. Most often, if these symptoms if left untreated can result in further damage to the ligaments, tendons, and/or muscles. It is imperative to seek treatment immediately following the collision as insurance companies consider whiplash injuries as a “soft tissue injury,” because they do not necessarily result in objective symptoms or findings. Soft tissue injuries consist of ligament, tendon, and/or muscles that suffer from bruising, strains, and/or sprains that cause pain and inflammation to the injured area. Common diagnosis, or diagnoses from medical providers are cervical strains or sprains, thoracic strains or sprains, and/or lumbar strains or sprains, as well as sprain or strain of tendons.
As previously stated, depending on the severity of the impact in the collision, whiplash injuries can also result in a concussion, or concussion like symptoms regardless of whether or not an individual experienced loss of consciousness, which is why it is so important to seek immediate medical attention. Common pain and symptoms of a concussion as a result of a whiplash injury, with or without loss of consciousness, can result in a multitude of cognitive issues that may be accompanied by mental fogginess, dizziness, nausea, light sensitivity, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating or focusing, memory loss, decreased balance, speech difficulty, blurriness of vision, severe head pain, headaches, fatigue, confused mental state, vertigo, sleep interference, and/or difficulty multi-tasking. Depending on severity and extent of the whiplash injury, the pain and symptoms that result from a concussion can carry long-term cognitive issues. Some more severe cases of whiplash injuries that result in concussions can include much more disastrous symptoms such as internal bleeding in the brain, skull fractures, and/or traumatic brain injuries that can result in complete personality changes in an individual.
Depending on the individual, the severity of pain and symptoms due to a whiplash injury can result in continued pain and discomfort, with or without a concussion, and may require additional treatment in the future, and make an individual much more susceptible to re-injury in the affected area, or areas. When muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments are stretched from a whiplash injury, that stretching causes the affected muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments to tear resulting in the injured areas to produce scar tissue.
Other symptoms of ache, pain, and/or discomfort as a result of whiplash from a rear-end motor vehicle collision can be felt on a constant basis. They can also be intermittent, and new or different symptoms of pain, ache, and/or discomfort may develop up to several days post collision depending on the individual, and severity, or extent of the injured area, or areas. Although some medical care providers recommend simple at home treatment such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter medications to treat the pain, ache, and/or discomfort from a whiplash injury, other more severe, or complicated symptoms may require extensive albeit conservative treatment modalities such as physical therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment, pain management, and/or prescription medications such as painkillers in order to alleviate the pain and discomfort. In addition to these possible recommendations, home exercise programs may also be encouraged.
Whiplash injury symptoms can produce pain in a single area, or multiple areas, and although some of these symptoms may not be considered as serious as a bone fracture, spinal fracture, spinal damage, herniated discs, skull lacerations and/or fractures that does not necessarily mean that serious or detrimental symptoms cannot occur. Some individuals may experience mild symptoms from a whiplash injury that resolve with the appropriate course of care and treatment following the motor vehicle collision, while others may continue to experience unresolved pain and discomfort long after the motor vehicle collision.