What are the Long-Term Effects of Untreated Whiplash?

Here at Alleviate Pain in Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg, Florida, we often see patients suffering from the long-term effects of whiplash. In many cases, they thought their neck injury was mild or their symptoms weren’t severe, so they didn’t see a doctor.  

The problem with not getting treated comes down to this: The trauma from a mild whiplash can cause pain, headaches, and other symptoms that last for years. Here’s what you need to know about the complications that develop due to untreated whiplash.

Whiplash basics

Whiplash occurs when your neck is suddenly forced into a rapid back-and-forth movement. Although the most common cause of whiplash is a car accident, sports injuries and other traumas can cause the same problem.

As muscles and soft tissues are damaged, you may develop neck pain, shoulder pain, or a headache. In severe cases, vertebrae may be damaged, or you may experience memory loss. Your symptoms may appear immediately, or they may take time to develop. Here are a few of the most common problems that develop when whiplash goes untreated:

Chronic whiplash-associated disorders

Here’s a startling statistic: Some 30-50% of all people who experience whiplash will develop persistent whiplash-associated disorders. This means you’ll have ongoing symptoms such as:  

Severe neck pain is the most frequent problem that develops, followed by ongoing headaches. Psychological concerns such as depression are also common when neck pain persists beyond three months.

You can lower your risk of developing whiplash-associated disorders with prompt and proper treatment for whiplash. If you already suffer from chronic neck pain, customized treatments at Alleviate Pain can relieve your symptoms.

Concussion

When your head snaps backward and forward during a whiplash injury, your brain bounces against the side of your skull. As a result, brain cells are damaged, and you can develop a concussion. You might experience a headache, but since that’s also a symptom you’d expect following a whiplash injury, you may not worry about the possibility of a concussion.

When you seek treatment for a whiplash injury, your doctor checks for signs of a concussion. However, if you don’t seek treatment, your concussion may worsen, especially if you stay physically active rather than taking precautions to avoid head movement.

Without treatment, you’re at risk for concussion complications that can last for months, such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating.

Limited muscle movement

When the soft tissues supporting your neck are damaged and you don’t seek treatment, scarring and inflammation develop and can severely limit your range of motion and progress into a chronic problem. You may also begin to develop loss of muscle strength or muscle atrophy, as well as physical changes in the neck muscles such as fatty deposits.

Loss of balance

Your neck has a critical role in your overall balance, as nerve signals from the neck help your body maintain equilibrium. The trauma suffered during a whiplash injury may damage or compress these nerves, causing loss of balance.

This loss of balance and dizziness, a condition called cervicogenic dizziness, occurs in up to 80-90% of all cases of whiplash. Much like a concussion, you may think that dizziness is a normal response to a whiplash injury. Without treatment, you won’t know that the nerves in your neck sustained more serious trauma.

Here at Alleviate Pain, we have specialized testing that can determine which nerves are affected and provide customized treatment that gets to the root of the problem. Whether your whiplash occurred recently and you still have time to get it treated, or you’ve already developed the long-term effects of untreated whiplash, you’ll receive expert help and one-on-one support from the team at Alleviate Pain. Call us or go online to set up an appointment today.

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