Skip to content

Do Symptoms of Whiplash Begin Immediately After an Accident?

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained in a car accident. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, it’s a safe bet you know someone who has. You’ve likely seen the bulky neck collar or perhaps you’re wearing it yourself right now. Even though whiplash is indeed a common injury, it’s also a complex one and many people who have it may not understand how serious it can be, or how long-lasting its effects can be.

One of the more enduring myths about whiplash injuries is that you feel them immediately after a car crash or accident, which is actually rare. Typically, you may not feel pain from whiplash until up to 24 hours later or more, after the shock and adrenaline of the accident has worn off.

First, however, let’s talk a little bit about whiplash itself and how it happens. Then we’ll get into recognizing the symptoms and seeking medical treatment.

What is whiplash?

Per the Mayo Clinic, whiplash “is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.” You might also hear whiplash called a neck sprain or strain. It’s typically caused by rear-end car crashes, but can happen in any type of accident that causes the neck to whip back and forth – like sports injuries, falls, or assaults.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Often, after a whiplash injury, you may not feel symptoms until a day or two later. Physicians call this “delayed onset.” Even though your injury did happen at the scene of the accident, the adrenaline resulting from the physical trauma can mask the pain and symptoms for hours or even days.

Symptoms of whiplash can include:

  • Stiff neck and/or limited range of motion
  • Stiffness and pain in shoulder and arms
  • Numbness or tingling in arms
  • Pain in the neck and head
  • Spasms in the neck
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and sleep disturbances
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurred vision

Even if you have just one of these symptoms, it’s important to get prompt medical attention.

When should I see a doctor for whiplash?

If you suffered a whiplash injury in a Chicago car accident, you should see a physician as soon as possible. In fact, we advise our clients to always see a doctor after an accident, even if they don’t feel injured, due to delayed onset symptoms. However, the Mayo Clinic does recommend if you are older, have chronic pain, have had a previous whiplash injury, or your pain is severe, it’s crucial you get medical attention immediately.

Your doctor will use a variety of tests to diagnose your whiplash injury, including:

  • Range of motion exercises
  • Reflex and strength tests
  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRIs

What are the treatments for whiplash?

The sooner you can started on your treatment, the better your chances for improvement. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan – both for your health and to protect your potential Chicago personal injury claim.

Whiplash treatment centers on managing the symptoms rather than “curing” the injury. The Cleveland Clinic notes that “the goal of treatment is to allow whiplash to heal as much as possible on its own while supporting that healing process and minimizing symptoms. Some people may also need care for chronic issues that happen because of whiplash.”

Treatments and medications for whiplash can include:

  • Immobilizing the neck
  • Applying cold to the neck after the initial injury, and heat later
  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatories and prescription medications
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy
  • Nerve ablation

In severe cases, patients may need to undergo spinal surgery to relieve symptoms.

Why is it so important to get immediate treatment for a whiplash injury?

As we mentioned earlier, whiplash is often a “delayed onset” injury. Delaying medical treatment can worsen your symptoms, worsen your injury, and increase your chances for chronic pain in the future. Further, whiplash pain can sometimes disguise more serious injuries to your back, neck, and spinal cord. The sooner a doctor can properly diagnose your injuries, the sooner you can start your road to recovery.

As Chicago personal injury lawyers, we also would be remiss if we didn’t mention again that, after any accident, it’s vital to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your health and safety is important, and so is your injury claim. Every piece of medical documentation showing the extent of your injuries – and that you’re seeking treatment – points to the strength of your case.

We understand that you may be concerned about your medical expenses; don’t let that prevent you from seeing a doctor. Our attorneys can provide guidance on personal injury claims and how the compensation process works. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless you do. We can help.

If you have any type of whiplash or soft tissue injury, please call the experienced attorneys at Gainsberg Law. We have represented hundreds of individuals that have suffered whiplash injuries in car and truck accidents. We understand your rights and work to protect them. Our job is to ensure you secure the compensation to which you are entitled for your injuries.

To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, call our offices at 312-600-9585 or fill out our contact form. Although we are based in Chicago, we work with injury victims throughout Illinois.