How Long Does Whiplash Last?

Whiplash, a painful neck injury, causes a range of symptoms that may last only a few years but can also affect you for a lifetime.

Most often seen in victims of low impact car accidents, whiplash is an injury to the soft tissue inside of the neck. Its diagnosis is made difficult as there are no tell-tale signs of the injury which can be seen on an X-ray. Instead, doctors must rely on your version of the events leading to the onset of symptoms, and a complete physical that focuses on the level of pain you feel in certain areas of your body.

neck pain

In severe cases of whiplash, a CT or MRI scan may be helpful if the doctor feels that the spinal column may have been compromised.

Whiplash Categories

Once diagnosed, whiplash will often be categorized in one of three ways:

  • Type One: With a mild case of whiplash, the symptoms don’t present themselves until hours after the trauma. There is no evidence of muscle spasm and the pain is limited to the neck region. Even then, the loss of range of motion in the neck is minimal and there will be no signs of radiating pain.
  • Type Two: Pain is typically immediate and severe, with spasms of the muscle and radiating pain as far as the fingertips. You might also experience shoulder pain and lower back pain accompanied by persistent headaches and dizziness.
  • Type Three: The most severe form of whiplash is defined when there is evidence of a pinched nerve. Pain is intense and persistent in the neck region with definitive signs of deferred pain to the arms and/or shoulder.

Since everyone reacts differently to trauma from an accident, it is important to seek medical attention immediately after an accident even if you do not notice any symptoms. A mild case of whiplash can easily manifest to an acute one if treatment is not begun immediately.

How Long Will the Symptoms Last?

For some people, mild cases of whiplash will clear up on their own as the swelling to the area goes down. With the majority of cases though, the pain will persist for a month or longer. This pain can be severe enough to prevent the patient from going to work. Make sure that you discuss your options with a qualified lawyer if you are missing days off from work from a whiplash injury.

One concern of course is the development of chronic whiplash, where the neck never fully recovers from the injury. This is usually the result of disc displacement and can cause a permanent disability for the patient. A doctor will diagnose this condition if after months of therapy, your body and neck are showing no signs of improvement.

Whiplash syndrome is another concern, especially for those whose pain is persistent. The constant fatigue from lack of sleep will lead to personality disorders such as depression and rage. The symptoms of this disorder will not disappear until the physical ones are treated and the pain ceases.

The most effective way to fully recover from whiplash is with its early diagnosis and quick intervention with a treatment plan. The main concern is in mitigating pain to allow for the damaged muscles, tendons and ligaments to heal.

If money is holding you back from getting on the road to a full recovery from whiplash, speak with an attorney who specializes in car accidents and this type of injury. If the onset of your condition is the fault of someone else, they may be compelled to pay for your expenses along with the money lost from missed time at work.