Why Are Whiplash Symptoms Often Delayed?

Why Are Whiplash Symptoms Often Delayed?

Whiplash is a common neck injury that can happen as a result of forceful events, such as auto injuries. It occurs when your head is driven forward and then back in a whipping action that can impact your neck, shoulders, and upper back. 

Unfortunately, whiplash is fairly common, affecting some 2 million Americans each year. It is often caused by car crashes — especially when your car is rear-ended by another car — but it can also develop in response to force from falls, sports injuries, other types of accidents, or physical abuse.

At Atlas Health Center in San Francisco, California, our providers want to be sure that our patients understand some important facts about whiplash. For example, patients don’t always realize that whiplash symptoms can develop days after an accident. Read on to learn why this may occur, and what you can do if you think you have whiplash.

A whip-like motion

Whiplash can happen when force pushes your head forward and then back, actions known as extension and flexion. This kind of force may impact the muscles, joints, nerves, discs, and ligaments in your neck, shoulders, and back. Whiplash may also be referred to as a neck strain or a neck sprain.

Symptoms of whiplash may include any of following in the neck, shoulders, and/or upper back:

Onset of symptoms

In some cases, whiplash symptoms develop soon after an accident. However, it is not uncommon for them to show up the next day or several days after an injury.

Here's why that can happen: When your head snaps forward and back, the action can strain or injure structures in your neck and upper back. However, symptoms typically occur not because of those strains, but as a result of swelling and inflammation that occurs in response to the injury.

Swelling and inflammation may happen right away, but they may also take hours or days to trigger pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

Treating whiplash

There is no single “best” way to treat whiplash. Treatment is personalized to align with your symptoms and other factors.

If you have whiplash, our providers examine you and create an individualized treatment plan customized for your needs. In many cases, people with whiplash can benefit from wearing a cervical collar, which is a type of brace that protects and supports your neck while you heal.

Treatment may also include one or more of the following:

Generally, whiplash symptoms clear up within days or weeks, although they can occasionally linger for months or longer. However, prompt treatment can help resolve symptoms and restore your comfort and range of motion.

Personalized treatment for whiplash

If you’ve had an accident or are experiencing any whiplash symptoms, we can help. Call our San Francisco office at 415-549-0555 to schedule a consultation, or book an appointment online now.

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