That pain in your neck after a car accident probably isn’t in your head – it may be whiplash.
Whiplash is a very common injury in many car accidents. The head may be thrown forward and back or side to side upon impact, leading to neck pain, headaches and other symptoms. See our Guide to Whiplash Symptoms.
While you probably have heard of whiplash, there are some little-known facts about the condition that you should know. If you have recently been in an accident and think you have whiplash, you should be seen by a medical professional right away.
Neck pain isn’t the only symptom
Your neck, shoulders and head might hurt after a crash, but not always. You also may develop these symptoms:
- Numbness in your arms and hands
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blurred vision
- Neck swelling
These symptoms may hit you right after the accident, or they could take days or weeks to develop. Make sure to keep a record of which symptoms you are experiencing and when so that you can tell your medical professional.
Whiplash happens at all speeds
You don’t have to slam into a brick wall at 40 MPH to get whiplash. Researchers have actually shown that whiplash can happen at low-speed crashes less than 5 MPH.
Also, a rear impact at only 10 MPH can whip your head forward with a force of up to 9 Gs (a "G" being the gravitational pull on the earth). Impact speed does not always correlate with a whiplash injury.
X-Rays don't always show fractures
When you go to the ER, the doctor may order X-Rays of your neck. Often, there will be no sign of fracture. But you still may suffer pain; this can be due to a straightening of the curvature of the cervical spine. Sometimes fractures are not even visible until they start to heal, which means they would not be seen right after an accident.
So remember, you can have whiplash under many scenarios after a crash. Get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible right after the accident.