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When to See a Doctor for Whiplash

Can Whiplash from a Car Accident Cause Lasting Issues?

whiplashWhiplash is often a minor concern, with some soreness or stiffness that eventually goes away. But there can be longer-term issues that can cause serious problems.

While many people recover from whiplash within days or weeks, there are those chronic problems that might go on for months. It’s important here to know that there are different ways to effectively treat these issues, and that usually these treatments are most effective when they are begun sooner rather than later.

How do I know whether I should see a doctor?

If the soreness goes on for more than a few days, or if you are having trouble with activities you do on a regular basis, make an appointment with a healthcare provider.

However, and this is important, if what you are experiencing is muscle weakness, numbness, headaches or vision problems, you should seriously consider going to the nearest emergency department — if your doctor is not immediately able to see you.

What are the treatments for whiplash?

As is often the case with medical treatment, this will depend on the details of your particular situation. What is the severity of the injury? What were the causes? What is your medical history?

Age can also play a significant role.

Usually, older people, and those who previously have had neck problems because of arthritis, are more likely to have more serious consequences from whiplash than a younger person does.

The older we get, the more muscles lose their flexibility and strength. Also, our discs and ligaments are not as stretchy. So, when whiplash occurs, when the neck suddenly whips back and forth, there is the greater possibility of damage.

If your whiplash is the type that turns out to be not so serious, there are different strategies you can employ to find some relief:

  • Ice the neck as soon as you can after the injury. As a rule, it works best if you do this icing for fifteen minutes every three to four hours, for two to three days.
  • Apply moist heat to the neck — but only after the initial two to three days of icing. Use heat only after the initial swelling has gone down.
  • Over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, Advil, Motrin or Aleve may help with pain. (But do not use them regularly unless your doctor specifically says you should.)

While being in a car collision is the most common cause of whiplash, this type of injury can be the result of a fall, or playing contact sports.


*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery