Whiplash symptoms can be numerous, complicated, long-lasting, and hard to diagnose, which is why they are commonly known as whiplash-associated disorders. Symptoms like neck pain may present themselves directly after the injury or may be delayed for several days.
Other common symptoms may include:
- Neck stiffness
- Injuries to the muscles and ligaments (myofascial injuries)
- Abnormal sensations, such as burning or prickling (paresthesias)
- Shoulder or back pain
Moreover, some people may experience cognitive, somatic, or psychological conditions such as memory loss, concentration impairment, nervousness/irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, or depression.
Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications. In general, people are more likely to have chronic pain if their first symptoms were intense, started rapidly and included severe neck pain, more-limited range of motion, and pain that spread to the arms.
The following risk factors have been linked to a worse outcome:
- Having had whiplash before
- Older age
- Existing low back or neck pain
- A high-speed injury
Some people with whiplash do experience chronic pain or headaches for years following their accident. Doctors may be able to trace this pain to damaged neck joints, disks, and ligaments. However, chronic pain following a whiplash injury typically has no medical explanation.
In any case, lingering symptoms of neck injury or whiplash should not be ignored. It’s important to seek medical treatment if the symptoms aren’t going away. Especially if they’re preventing victims from doing every day activities.