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Whiplash: Causes, symptoms and complications

A whiplash injury occurs when your head suddenly moves backward and forward with force. This causes the muscles and ligaments in your neck to extend beyond the normal range of motion. Whiplash can happen for various reasons, and sometimes symptoms may not show up for several days or weeks. 

Some people mistakenly believe that whiplash is simply a mild condition. Unfortunately, it can lead to long-term complications. If you want to learn more about the causes, symptoms and complications of whiplash, keep reading below.

Causes

One of the most common causes of whiplash is a car accident, particularly rear-end collisions. It may also result from physical abuse. Contact sports, such as football, karate or boxing, can also cause this injury. Other potential causes are falls or getting struck in the head by a heavy object. 

Symptoms

The most common signs of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Decreased range of motion in the neck
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

More serious and less common symptoms include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), problems concentrating and memory loss. Remember that these symptoms may take a long time to develop after the actual accident.

Complications

Sometimes whiplash is mild and treatable with over-the-counter remedies. Unfortunately, it can also be worse. The sudden motion that causes whiplash can also cause a concussion or traumatic brain injury. This may manifest by worsening or persistent headaches, nausea, confusion or unconsciousness.

Whiplash may also result in chronic neck pain or headaches for several years after the initial injury. Damaged joints or ligaments in the neck can often cause this. 

If you recognize any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to notify your physician or urgent care center. You should undergo proper testing and diagnosis to determine what you are experiencing. Your doctor may recommend pain medications, ice, exercise or physical therapy to treat your whiplash injury. 

Read more about whiplash and neck strain at WebMD.

 

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