How can I get whiplash in a car accident?

When a car gets into a collision, the people inside are often thrown rapidly back and forth. This “whipping” of the neck is where the term “whiplash injury” comes from. Whiplash can also occur on the sports field or because of violence.

Often confused with a neck sprain or strain, whiplash does not always emerge immediately after the incident, but generally becomes obvious within 24 hours. Possible symptoms include:

  • Neck stiffness, and pain that grows worse when the neck moves.
  • Reduced range of neck motion.
  • Headaches that start at the base of the skull.
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Dizziness and fatigue

As the Mayo Clinic’s website explains, with treatment most cases of whiplash fade within a few months. But severe cases can last for many months, even years. People who quickly experience pain in the neck (especially severe pain) and arms and headaches are more likely to have suffered a long-term whiplash injury.

After a wreck, it is often tempting to decline medical attention if you do not have any obvious injuries and feel “fine.” However, you should never ignore any possible signs of neck injury. If your neck starts to hurt in the hours after the crash, get to a doctor as soon as possible. If it is whiplash, you could face months of recovery, but ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.