Accidents happen when you least expect them. And even the smallest incident can leave you reeling. While you might walk away without obvious signs of a problem, it’s important to schedule an appointment with an expert.
Accidents, by their very nature, cause a shock to the system. Some are obvious, like the jarring sensation of the collision. However, others are far more subtle — like the burst of fight-or-flight hormones that kick in to protect you from danger. As a result, the physical damage you may experience during a car accident may not register immediately.
Unfortunately, that also means people are more likely to ignore symptoms when they do arise, which can lead to longer recovery times and chronic problems.
At Glaser Pain Relief Center in Encino, California, our team has seen the toll car accidents take on the body, especially the lasting effects of whiplash. Here’s why we recommend that you see an expert for assessment soon after an incident, even if you’re not showing obvious signs of a problem yet.
Why whiplash causes problems
As the name implies, whiplash injuries occur when the neck forcefully snaps in a whip-like manner. While these injuries are usually associated with car accidents, they can also develop in response to any kind of incident that violently throws the head forward and backward, including falls, contact sports, and assault or physical abuse.
The jarring motion may not seem serious, but it can cause significant damage to numerous structures in your neck, including:
- Intervertebral discs
However, it can take time for whiplash damage to reveal itself. You can have a car accident or other traumatic incident but not develop whiplash symptoms for days, weeks, or even months.
How to recognize whiplash
In times of danger or high stress, your body automatically releases a surge of hormones to provide a calming response that helps you feel relaxed and in control and to help you better manage stress and pain. That fight-or-flight response can leave you oblivious to even severe injuries in the heat of the moment.
On top of that, whiplash injuries often involve soft tissue damage, which causes swelling and inflammation. Unlike the sudden and severe pain you may have with a broken bone, these injuries often reveal symptoms over time, especially if they irritate or compress nerves in the affected area.
Signs of whiplash often include:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck, shoulder, back, or head
- Bruising or skin discoloration
- Limited range of motion
- Tender and sore muscles
- Pain, swelling, or numbness
- Hearing changes, like tinnitus
- Balance problems, blurred vision, dizziness, or confusion
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Problems concentrating
- Changes in mood, sleep habits, appetite, or behavior
Because whiplash symptoms can differ from person to person and vary in severity, our team recommends scheduling an assessment with an expert if you’ve had a physically traumatic event.
Why you shouldn’t ignore whiplash
No one wants to go to the doctor, especially if they feel fine in the moment. However, whiplash injuries have a tendency to worsen and become chronic over time when ignored.
Long-term effects of whiplash often include:
- Chronic pain
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Recurring headaches, including migraines
- Numbness, weakness, or sensory problems in the extremities
- Persistent ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Memory problems
- Disordered sleeping
- Changes in personality or mood
Fortunately, most whiplash injuries respond to treatment, especially under the care of our skilled providers.
If you’ve had a car accident or physical trauma, play it safe. Contact Glaser Pain Relief Center to schedule an assessment with our team today.