The Long-Term Effects of Not Treating Whiplash

Your cervical spine, which runs through your neck, is the thinnest part of your spine and is easily injured. If you’re in a high- or low-impact accident that causes your head to jerk violently backward or forward, the joints between your vertebrae, the cushioning disks, the cervical ligaments, and the nerve roots may tear, rupture, or be otherwise damaged.

Symptoms of whiplash include:

Whiplash may not hurt … at first

One of the dangers of an injury like whiplash is that it can seem like it’s not a big deal. You might feel a little pain during the incident or experience minor symptoms, but you could also feel perfectly fine and not have any symptoms at all. And since you have no cuts, bruises, or other outward signs of injury, you think you’re OK.

Whiplash symptoms can take 24 hours, or even days to weeks, before they manifest. Your neck houses so many important veins, nerves, and ligaments that even slight injuries to these tissues can cause your other muscles and ligaments to overcompensate, become tense, and even force your spine out of alignment.

Whiplash can cause chronic problems

No matter how minor your accident seems — and whether you notice symptoms or not — you should have your neck evaluated here at Wolmed as soon as possible. About 25% of men and women who suffer whiplash that isn’t treated go on to develop chronic pain or suffer from other disorders, including:

Neck instability. Sprained or strained ligaments and tendons may not be strong enough to support your cervical spine properly. You may also have suffered an asymptomatic spinal fracture that interferes with your neck’s ability to move normally and support your head.

Concussion. The force during your accident may have been enough to cause a traumatic brain injury known as a concussion. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Untreated concussions can cause seizures, recurrent dizziness, and other symptoms that may worsen over time.

Tinnitus. If your nerves, veins, jaw, or the hearing area of your brain were traumatized during your accident, you could develop a buzzing or ringing in your ears called tinnitus. Tinnitus can be mild and transient, or it can be constant, loud, and distracting. Tinnitus can become so severe that you may have difficulty hearing or concentrating.

Difficulties chewing, swallowing, and speaking. Your larynx and pharynx, also located in your neck, may be injured during whiplash. If your jaw muscles were traumatized, it may hurt to open your mouth, yawn, or even speak.

Chronic pain or disability. When you don’t treat your injuries, they can worsen over time. All of your body’s parts are interconnected, so a neck injury may lead to other problems down the road. Some whiplash victims even begin to have trouble walking because of muscle atrophy in their legs.

Post-traumatic stress disorder. Car crashes and other accidents that are potentially life-threatening are frightening and traumatizing. Underlying tissue injuries may add to your feeling of being unsafe. At Wolmed, we have an on-site counselor to help you process the emotional trauma of an accident.

Early treatment gets you back on track

If you’ve been in an accident that exerted force on your neck or head, our providers give you a complete physical examination to determine the severity of your whiplash. If necessary, they order advanced imaging techniques, such as X-rays and MRIs, to determine if your bones or soft tissues are damaged.

Treatment for whiplash is individually tailored based on your specific injuries. Therapies that can help relieve pain and promote tissue healing include:

Don’t discount whiplash. Get an evaluation and treatment recommendations as soon as your accident occurs from our whiplash specialists at Wolmed in Houston and Denton. You can call to set up an appointment, or just use the online booking form.

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