Car Accidents: Everything You Need to Know to Find Relief

Whiplash: The Symptoms You Need to Know 

Whiplash is an injury that occurs when your body is suddenly forced backward and forward. It’s the most common injury during an automobile accident and is one of the leading causes of chronic neck and back pain. While a little fender bender may not seem like a big deal, new research has shown that even small accidents can result in significant injuries. 

The violent forces that occur during an auto accident can cause damage to your spinal discs, ligaments, tendons, and bones-even at “low” speeds. Most of these injuries happen because your head is quickly whipped backward and forward. This rapid back-and-forth motion frequently results in ligament tearing and spinal disc injuries. Symptoms such as neck pain, back pain, headaches, confusion, and even depression indicate that you’ve suffered a whiplash injury. You may not immediately notice any pain because of a spike in adrenaline during the accident. For many people, these symptoms may take hours or even a few days to develop after the initial shock of the car accident wears off. 

Whiplash is an acceleration-deceleration injury that can affect your ligaments, spinal discs, muscles, and facet joints 

There is often a period of little to no pain before the symptoms become worse 

Symptoms of whiplash include neck or back pain, headache, radiating pain, confusion, and difficulty sleeping

It’s smart to get a complete evaluation after an auto accident to minimize your risk of long-term pain. Getting the right care at the right time can make a big difference in your ability to heal quickly and avoid long-term chronic pain. Remember, even small accidents can cause injuries, so if you’ve been involved in an auto accident, be sure to reach out to our office as soon as possible so we can help you get on the relief road. 

How Long Does Whiplash Last?  

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, back pain, headaches, dizziness, or confusion—none of these sound like a good time. So, if you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may wonder how long these symptoms will last. The good news is that with a proper evaluation and early treatment, you have a high likelihood of getting well within a matter of weeks. 

One of the most common injuries associated with whiplash is ligament tearing. Ligaments are short, tough bands of connective tissue that hold together the bones in your neck and the joints of your body. If these ligaments are torn, it can cause neck pain. The average time it takes a ligament to heal is about six weeks with the proper care and treatment. If you notice symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or memory issues, you may have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). A majority of people with a mild TBI recover within three months.  

Whiplash injuries frequently cause tearing of the ligaments that support proper spinal motion and stability. 

The acute inflammatory phase of injury lasts up to 72 hours, the repair phase takes up to 6 weeks, and the remodeling phase of healing can last up to a year

A non-healed ligament injury can result in osteoarthritis 

After an accident, the most important step you can take is to receive a full evaluation. Only after a complete evaluation will you know what type of injuries you’ve sustained and, most importantly- how to get well. You would be surprised how many people shrug off a “small” accident and push their symptoms aside. While that may save you a little time today, it’s likely to result in much more pain down the road. 

Shoulder Pain After a Car Accident: What Does it Mean? 

You may be surprised to learn that shoulder injuries and whiplash are some of the most common challenges after a car accident. If you are the driver and have your hands on the wheels at the time of the crash, the sudden force created by the accident can lead to a torn rotator cuff. Your shoulder is one of the most complex parts of your body and comprises a collection of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. 

The rotator cuff is a ball and socket joint made up of three bones: your arm bone (the humerus), your shoulder blade (the scapula), and your collarbone (the clavicle). The supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons are designed to help you lift and rotate your arm. Your shoulder is one of your body’s most dynamic and unstable joints. It’s hard to ignore a torn rotator cuff because…it hurts! Signs of a tear include shoulder pain when lifting your arm, weakness, pain when lying down, or a limited range of motion. 

Shoulder impingement has been estimated to occur in up to 10% of people involved in car accidents 

The shoulder is one of the most complex, dynamic, and unstable joints in the body, with a complex network of bones, ligaments, and muscles

The risk of neck or shoulder pain seven years after a collision was three times higher for patients with initial whiplash injuries than those without

Ignoring a shoulder injury after a car accident is not a good idea. Your shoulder is designed to move, and if you try to “let it heal” by not moving it, you’re putting yourself at risk for a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is when your shoulder develops adhesions due to lack of movement. This can result in severe pain that takes months to heal. If you have shoulder pain after an accident, time is of the essence! Our team is here and can provide a complete evaluation and treatment plan for you to get moving safely and heal quickly. 

Finding Relief After a Car Accident without Drugs or Surgery  

Screech. Bam. Uh-oh. You’ve been involved in a car accident. Your day has been thrown upside down, and a million thoughts are racing. If you don’t feel immediate pain, you may be tempted to think you don’t have a problem. But waiting too long to seek care has been shown to increase the chances that you’ll need more aggressive interventions. Taking the right action steps as quickly as possible after a car accident can greatly improve your overall health and healing. With the stress of an accident, calling the insurance company, getting a car repaired, etc., it’s not uncommon for people to put their health and well-being last on the to-do list.

The problem is that the longer you wait to get evaluated and receive care, the higher your likelihood of needing more aggressive medical care. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment, your body may begin to “heal” with more scar tissue than necessary. You may also try to live “around” your injuries, which can cause additional stress and compensation on other parts of your body and lead to additional injuries. Research has shown that active care involving range of motion, mobilizing exercises, and strengthening can effectively reduce pain. We recommend three simple steps to give yourself the best chance to find relief without needing drugs or surgery. 

The three steps to finding relief after a car accident 

Get an evaluation: A complete evaluation can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan 

Begin receiving care: After reducing inflammation, movement-based techniques are often recommended to help you regain your quality of life 

Stay consistent: Getting well is a process. Stay consistent with your care to heal as quickly as possible 

 

Next Steps:

There’s no way around it- auto accidents aren’t fun. But with the right healthcare team, most people can return to their full lives and activities without needing drugs or surgery. The key is to follow the three steps of evaluation, care, and consistency. While it seems simple, following the three steps will give you the best chance to get well quickly and stay well for years to come. And if you’ve been in an auto accident, call us today!

Science Source:

The Effectiveness of Conservative Management for Acute Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) II: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.PLoS One. 2015

Biomechanics of whiplash injury. Chinese Journal of Traumatology. 2009

Ligament Injury and Healing: A Review of Current Clinical Diagnostics and Therapeutics. The Open Rehabilitation Journal. 2013

The association between exposure to a rear-end collision and future neck or shoulder pain: a cohort study. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2000

Subacromial impingement in patients with whiplash injury to the cervical spine. Journal of Orthopedic Surgery and Research. 2008

Hi! I'm Dr. Jessica

Hi! I'm Dr. Jessica

I’m Dr. Jessica Payne, Medical Intuitive, Doctor of Natural Medicine, and your go-to guide for living your life naturally…More

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