How Long After an Accident Can Whiplash Symptoms Appear?

Among the most common injuries suffered in car accidents are those involving soft tissue, including whiplash. But what is whiplash? How do you know if you have it? How long after an accident can whiplash symptoms appear? How long can they last? Here are a few things you need to know if you’ve been in an accident and you think you might have whiplash.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a type of neck strain or sprain. It occurs when the body is subjected to rapid acceleration or deceleration, such as in a car accident, causing the head to snap back and forth in a whipping motion. 

Rear-end accidents are a common cause of whiplash, but they can also occur as a result of other auto collisions, as well as sports-related accidents, falls, and other physical trauma. With proper diagnosis, whiplash is treatable, so it’s best to see a medical professional as soon as possible.

Tests for whiplash may include a physical exam to check for pain, range of motion, and reflexes; a discussion of your symptoms; and imaging tests like X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to rule out other potential injuries.

How Long After an Accident Can Whiplash Symptoms Appear?

Some people may notice neck pain immediately following an accident. Others may not feel the telltale stiffness of whiplash until up to 24 hours after the event. In some cases, it may be several days before you begin to notice symptoms. What should you be on the lookout for? Common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion in the neck
  • Tenderness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Sleep disruption
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability

You may experience one or several symptoms. They may worsen over time, and if left undiagnosed and untreated, whiplash could result in years of suffering and additional complications. With proper treatment, some patients may alleviate symptoms within weeks, although severe cases can be chronic.

Treatment for Whiplash

Pain control is often the first treatment option employed for whiplash. In some cases, applying heat/ice is recommended, along with over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen. You may require prescription painkillers or muscle relaxants in the aftermath of an accident, depending on the severity.

Rest is typically recommended immediately after an accident, but you will likely begin physical therapy soon after to treat whiplash, as extended rest could exacerbate stiffness and other symptoms. Targeted stretching exercises are often prescribed to alleviate symptoms.

While foam neck braces were once a common treatment, research has shown that prescribed forms of movement may be more beneficial than immobilization for addressing whiplash.

Why Early Diagnosis Is So Important

While you may not immediately realize you’re suffering from whiplash, it’s important to pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. How long after an accident can whiplash symptoms appear? Perhaps a few hours or several days later, so if you start to notice symptoms like stiffness, trouble sleeping, and headaches, don’t just write it off — see a doctor immediately for diagnosis.

Early diagnosis is critical to avoid long-term pain and other issues, as well as further injury that could exacerbate problems. Because you may need weeks, months, or even years of treatment for whiplash, you’ll want to make sure you have medical records detailing your condition so that you can seek compensation from the at-fault party in the accident.

Insurance providers may try to delay or deny your claims, particularly if you don’t get diagnosed until later on. They may try to run out the statute of limitations for you to file a lawsuit for compensation.

Whether you are diagnosed with whiplash immediately or several days or weeks after the accident, it’s best to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney about the next steps. This gives you the best chance to secure the compensation needed to cover medical bills, lost earnings, and other accident-related expenses.

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including cartruck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!