With roughly 20-50 million car accident injuries in the US every year, it’s no shock that as physical therapists, we treat many car accident patients in our clinic. Some of the obvious injuries we see include rehab broken bones, muscle injuries and ligament tears. However, some injuries can occur during an accident that may not be completely obvious or immediately noticeable.
After an experience like a car accident, endorphins throughout your body will be released. It increases your heart rate and helps you deal with the stress and trauma of the event. This is one of the reasons why you might not recognize injury right away. One of these injuries, possibly the most common, is a whiplash injury. This is a common injury because of how car accidents occur. If you are in a car that’s hit from behind, your head jerks back then forward in one foul swoop –– causing a very fast whip of the neck. Pain and injury occur because the force causes your neck to overextend its normal range of motion. The onset of moderate to severe whiplash injuries can range depending on the person and the severity of the accident.
Here’s what to look for within 24 hours of your accident.
Neck Stiffness and Pain
Because your body will attempt to protect the area of injury, your muscles will have tightened during and after the accident. One of the first signs you’ll notice and feel is pain and/or stiffness in your neck, shoulders and even through your upper back.
Sharp or Dull Headache
Headaches from whiplash typically have pain that starts at the back of your skull and neck and shoots up near the ears.
Many patients we treat complain of dizziness, blurred vision and nausea after their car accident. Also known as Vertigo, these symptoms can last up to a couple days if left untreated.
When you through a traumatic event and experience injury, your body is doing everything it can to protect and heal itself. So you may feel extremely tired after the onset of injury.
In addition to over the counter pain medications (such as Advil or Tylenol) for pain and inflammation, physical therapy can play an important role in your recovery. Your physical therapist can provide guidance regarding when and how to apply ice or heat to your injury. They will also provide a treatment plan including exercises to help your neck return to its normal level of strength and flexibility.
How to Recognize a Whiplash Injury After a Car Accident