Rear-end collision at high speed is the most common type of car accident that leads to whiplash. It occurs when your head and upper body rapidly moves backward and forward – giving a massive jolt to the neck joints. This sudden snap displaces the facet joints in the neck, strains the muscles, and causes stretch and tears in the neck tendons and ligaments.
The neck is one of the most common body parts affected by whiplash injury. Even a small fracture in the neck joints can cause troublesome symptoms such as pain, inflammation, swelling, headaches, migraines, and reduced range of motion. Statistical data show that symptoms secondary to a whiplash car accident typically last a few hours to several months – depending on several factors. In some cases, neck pain and other associated symptoms may linger and become permanent. This is especially true for chronic headaches and migraine attacks that may linger for years after an accident.
Clinical evaluation of patients with whiplash shows that several different types of neck injuries can happen, and each of these can cause mild to severe neck pain and other symptoms. The specific recovery time of your neck depends on several factors, such as;
- The cause of the whiplash – A car accident or sports injury
- The angle of injury – Direct trauma to the back of the neck causes more severe symptoms
- The Intensity of the injury – The healing time also largely depends on the intensity of the injury
- The extent of the injury – How many delicate structures are affected during the collision. The symptoms will be more severe, and recovery will be slower if the trauma also involves the base of the head or brain.
- Handling of the injury – In some cases, collision forces are not so great to cause massive damage to the neck. The handling and shifting of a patient towards the hospital can inflict certain injuries that may prove fatal later on and cause a delay in the recovery
- The response to the injuryr – Neglecting the specific treatment can exacerbate whiplash symptoms and slow down the healing time. The timing of getting initial medical consultation and treatment is also essential. Delaying the treatment can also contribute to slow recovery.
Neck pain and discomfort from whiplash injury usually heal within 24 hours and typically last several weeks. However, some people may don’t experience any symptoms until several days after the injury. According to the NIND (National Institute of Neurological Disorders), most neck injury cases recover from whiplash within 10 to 12 weeks. Some chronic cases may take longer to heal (55–76% of patients are pain-free after six months).
The healing time also depends on the time and the type of treatment. Treatment options like physiotherapy, massage, acupressure, chiropractic care, over the counter pain killers, and prescription medicines are shown to ease symptoms and boost recovery. The earlier you got the specific treatment, the faster the recovery.