Whiplash: What Is It, Complications, and When to Seek Treatment for It

A whiplash is a severe form of neck injury resulting from the forceful or fast back-and-forth movement of the neck, resembling the cracking of a whip. Hence its name. Although there are several causes of this condition, including sports accidents, physical abuse, and other physical traumas — it's most commonly caused by rear-end car accidents.


Although most individuals dealing with this neck injury get better within a couple of weeks following a treatment plan, including pain medication and natural means like exercising, it can lead to severe and lasting complications when left untreated.


To help you understand more about the consequences of neglecting a neck injury, here's what you need to know — from its various complications, when's the ideal time to seek treatment, and the best way to ensure lasting pain relief.

What Happens If You Leave Whiplash Untreated?

This medical condition is one of the most common injuries that an individual can get after a car accident, getting hit on the head, falling down the stairs, and other instances that result in physical trauma in the neck. The sudden jerking of your head back-and-forth can injure the muscles, tendons, ligaments surrounding your neck, causing pain, stiffness, and tightness.


When you leave this form of neck injury untreated, it can lead to severe and adverse health conditions and long-term pain. It can limit your range of motion and place pressure and stress on your neck, shoulders, head, and spine. These can turn into full-blown medical conditions if you don't address it immediately. All cases of this neck injury are different and require specific care, but the advice to sufferers is the same, seek immediate care.


Conditions that you may develop when you leave this severe type of neck injury untreated include the following:

Chronic Pain and Soreness

Untreated whiplashes pose an increased risk of experiencing chronic pain and soreness long after attaining the injury or a car accident. Torn and pressured neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments need careful treatment and time to repair themselves correctly. Over-exerting neck muscles and ligaments cause chronic pain, soreness, and difficulty in doing regular tasks. Although many patients seeking treatment see improvement fast within several weeks or months of the injury, those who don't get treatment can experience chronic pain and discomfort for months to years after sustaining injuries.


Problems In Mobility

Pain and stiffness from severe neck injuries can result in limited or loss of mobility, preventing you from doing your work duties or everyday daily tasks at home. This situation can happen when inflammation or swelling in your neck, upper back, and head muscles make it challenging to move these sensitive parts. When you leave it untreated, neck injuries can progress pain and lead to secondary conditions, ranging from migraines to shoulder pain, eventually affecting most of your body parts.


Headaches are common after attaining neck injuries. That's because with pain radiating from your neck, forehead to both sides of your head, it can put excessive strain on your brain. Chronic headaches and shooting pain from your skull base can flare up immediately after getting the neck injury or days to weeks afterward, worsening over time. However, if you or a loved one experience severe headaches persisting even after several months of sustaining injuries, it typically requires medication and other physical adjustments.


Vertigo is a health condition where an individual may feel like they're falling or spinning, but they're in an utterly still environment in reality. In many cases, they typically think dizzy or pain due to this odd sensation. It can imbalance your feelings — and literally, causing you to lose balance and fall. Vertigo and dizziness can result in more severe health hazards, and according to research, happen in between 25% to 50% of individuals cases of whiplashes. Plus, neck injuries can misalign individual vertebrae in your cervical spine, resulting in Cervicogenic dizziness caused by pain resulting in a unique sensation of disequilibrium.

Spinal Misalignment

Whiplashes typically cause the uppermost vertebrae in your neck to move out of its proper alignment, reducing your range of motion, inciting damage to each vertebra, or affect normal posture. The atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae make the joints connecting the skull and spine. A misalignment in these two essential vertebrae inhibits regular communication from the brain to your body's CNS. These crucial communication signals moving between your mind and body can be negatively affected or impaired by misalignment since C1, and C2 vertebrae have the broadest range of motion.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Leaving neck injuries untreated can result in serious long-term effects, such as contributing to degenerative disc disease. It's a medical condition that happens when the discs between your spinal column's vertebrae begin to break down, leading to severe pain, weakness, and numbness. Severe neck injuries can tear the fine muscles in your neck or upper back, dislocating or herniating your upper cervical spine. This trauma can trigger degenerative disc disease symptoms, ranging from upper back to lower back pain, having difficulty stretching, and resilience to everyday wear and tear.

Treating Whiplash

Here are different ways you can help speed recovery when dealing with severe neck pain.


  • Ice Your Neck - The best way to mitigate pain and swelling as soon as you get injured. It's best to do it every day, ensuring the best results.

  • Take Painkillers - Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain. However, it's best to consult with your doctor to see what dosae you should follow.

  • Use A Neck Brace - This adds support to your neck, making it more comfortable for you and speeding up the process.

What Can You Not Do with Whiplash?

When individuals don't do their research about whiplash and don't have a proper set of guidelines to follow, they often do things that make their injuries worse. Here's what you shouldn't do when you think you have this medical condition.

Returning to Normal Activities Too Soon

Many individuals make the mistake of going back to their regular activities too fast. Whether you're working full time, part-time, or don't work at all, when suffering from a neck injury, remember that your body needs time to heal, but you also need to stay active but don't go overboard. Ask your assigned physician or other qualified medical professionals like a physical therapist or chiropractor to determine what activities are safe and effective. Without knowing these activities, you increase your risk of doing too much — too soon, making it worse.


Never aggravate your neck injury. If you're experiencing nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or an intense headache, it's time to seek immediate medical attention.

Being Sedentary

Being sedentary or sitting or lying down for a long time can put a strain on your neck more, mostly when failing to get treatment for the medical condition. Avoid this and bring some movement and stretching to your neck, helping it become more robust and regain its normal function. However, make sure not to take it too far as it can make the pain worse. So, choose gentle stretching exercises for the best results.

Using a Neck Brace

Individuals wear a neck brace to ease their pain when suffering from neck injuries, and though it may offer some form of pain relief — using it for too long can do more harm than good. If you wear it for over 48 hours, you're increasing the time your body needs to heal, prolonging the recovery process. That's because neck braces restrain your neck muscles from stretching, preventing them from going back to their proper position. So, it's best to avoid wearing a neck brace for more than 48 hours or 72 hours max to prevent it from getting worse.

Neglecting to Get Treatment

The worst mistake that can lead to several health complications is neglecting to get the right treatment, but many people still make this error. Although the medical condition goes away on its own, it can cause debilitating pain that can affect your day-to-day routine, decreasing your quality of life and overall mood and health.


When Should You Go to the Hospital for Whiplash?

When you experience immediate pain after an injury or accident, or neck pain radiating from your neck to your arms and legs accompanied by headaches, pins and needles (tingling and numbness), visual changes, weakness, and nausea — it's time to go to a hospital emergency room. However, after treating the symptoms, the healing process doesn't stop there. It's best to visit a chiropractor to speed up recovery and ensure you're back in your best condition, giving you long-term pain relief.


Chiropractors can help treat this specific type of neck injury by several methods, including spinal manipulation, interferential electrical stimulation, soft tissue therapy, and trigger point therapy. However, these professionals' primary treatment is muscle stimulation or relaxation, including gentle stretches to the affected muscles. If you're looking for a reputable chiropractor for pain relief, Dr. Paul Grindstaff is an excellent choice.


Dr. Grindstaff is a chiropractor specializing in neurology, boasting over 21 years of experience in the field, treating thousands of patients from several medical conditions from auto accidents to neurodegenerative illnesses like epilepsy. He can alleviate pain associated with neck injuries using efficient chiropractic practices, advanced equipment, and all-natural approaches.

Treat your whiplash naturally with the help of Dr. Grindstaff, ensuring long-term pain relief and optimal health and wellness.

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