What are the long-term effects of untreated whiplash?

Consequences of Arthritis From Whiplash Injuries

No matter the nature of your whiplash injury, whether it derives from a car accident or sports injury, the experience can be frightening, and the physical and emotional pain that comes with it can be just as unsettling.

Even if you don't feel any pain immediately following an accident, you may still have a significant whiplash injury. These types of injuries can take several hours or even days to become apparent, and you may be left with debilitating symptoms that alter the way you live your life.

 Whiplash Injuries

Understanding Whiplash

A whiplash injury is a type of neck injury that occurs when the head is suddenly and forcefully thrown forward and backward, causing the neck to stretch and strain beyond its normal range of motion. There are many ways that a person can sustain a whiplash injury.
H3: Whiplash Symptoms
Whiplash injury symptoms may vary depending on the nature of the accident or injury. However, there are several common whiplash symptoms, including:
- Neck pain
- Muscle cramps
- Limited range of movement
- Dizziness
- Vertigo
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty sleeping
- Exhaustion
- Psychological or cognitive dysfunction

Bodily Trauma Associated With Whiplash Injuries

A whiplash injury can cause damage to a variety of structures in the cervical spine, including:

• Muscles. The muscles in the cervical spine can be stretched and strained beyond their normal range of motion during a whiplash injury. This sensation can lead to uncomfortable muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain.
• Ligaments. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. A whiplash injury can cause the ligaments in the neck to stretch or tear, leading to instability and pain.
• Discs. The neck is made up of a series of vertebrae, or bones, separated by discs. These discs act as shock absorbers and help the neck move smoothly. A whiplash injury can cause the discs to bulge, herniate, or rupture, leading to pain and other symptoms.
• Nerves. The neck is home to a number of nerves that control movement and sensation in the arms and upper body. A whiplash injury can damage these nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms and hands.
• Facet Joints. Facet joints are small joints located between the vertebrae in the spine. They work to provide stability and movement. During a whiplash injury, the facet joints can be stretched or torn, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
• Tendons. Tendons are thick pieces of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Whiplash injuries may result in tearing or irritation of the neck tendons, which can disable certain types of movement and cause pain and discomfort.
H3: Arthritis From Whiplash Injuries
Whiplash injuries can lead to the development of osteoarthritis in the neck. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. This can lead to bone-on-bone contact, causing pain and stiffness in the affected joint.
In the case of a whiplash injury, the sudden and forceful movement of the neck can cause damage to the cartilage and other structures in the neck, leading to the development of osteoarthritis. This is more likely to occur if the injury is severe or if it is not properly treated.

Common Causes of Whiplash Injuries

There are several ways to sustain a whiplash injury, such as:
- Contact sports, including football, martial arts, boxing, rugby, or lacrosse
- Bicycling accidents
- A water park or amusement park ride
- Slipping or falling
- Snowboarding or skiing accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents

Diagnosing Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash injuries are typically diagnosed based on a combination of the patient’s medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. In some cases, further tests such as nerve conduction studies or electromyography may be ordered to assess the function of the nerves and muscles in the neck.
• Medical History. While diagnosing whiplash, a healthcare provider will ask the patient about their current symptoms, how the injury occurred, and any previous injuries or medical conditions they may have.
• Physical Examination. They will then conduct a physical examination of the patient’s neck, head, and shoulders, looking for signs of injury, such as tenderness, swelling, or limited range of motion.
• Imaging Tests. Depending on the severity of the injury, the healthcare provider may order imaging tests, such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, to get a more in-depth look at the neck and surrounding structures that have been affected by the whiplash injury.
H3: Long-Term Effects of Untreated Whiplash
When left untreated, whiplash can lead to long-term problems, including chronic neck pain and stiffness, headaches, and difficulty with daily activities. Untreated whiplash may also result in more severe conditions, including:
- Chronic shoulder and neck pain
- Limited movement or muscle spasms
- Chronic headaches
- Facet joint arthritis
- Cervical disc injuries
- Depletion of cervical curve

The Importance of Addressing Whiplash Injuries

It is essential to address whiplash injuries as soon as possible to minimize the risk of long-term complications and to promote a full recovery. Early treatment can reduce pain and other unfavorable symptoms, improve your range of motion, restore your quality of life, and keep you from developing chronic conditions.

Get the Whiplash Injury Care You Need

If you have been involved in an accident that has left you with a whiplash injury, Oregon Medical Centers is here to guide you to the road to recovery. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing high-quality care using advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies to patients with all types of injuries, including whiplash. Contact us today to get the care you need to make a full recovery.

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May 22, 2023