Can Whiplash Symptoms Show Up Months Later?

An auto accident can happen in the blink of an eye. Its effects, however, can affect you for days, months, or even years after the incident. This will depend on the severity of the impact and your injuries, especially when it comes to whiplash.

What Is Whiplash?

Also called neck strain or neck sprain, this is an injury to the neck. It results from a sudden forward and/or backward jolting motion of the head. It is one of the most common injuries following a car accident. The vigorous and sudden movement of the head can damage the tendons and ligaments in the neck.

Even a minor car accident can cause whiplash when the vehicle comes to a sudden and full stop. The most likely type of car accident to cause this condition is rear-ending collisions. This is because of the extreme force that one car brings when it slams into another car. This force pushes directly into the vehicle’s seats, which suddenly jolts the occupant’s head backward and then forward.

A headrest may reduce the sudden forward motion; however, the spine will bear most of the damage by that time. Essentially a complex injury, whiplash combines joint damage, muscle damage, nerve damage, and disruption to the connective tissue.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Often, people experience symptoms of whiplash hours or even days after the initial trauma. Some of the symptoms that characterize this type of injury include the following:

  • Headaches, which often stem from the base of the skull.

  • Neck stiffness and pain.

  • Dizziness.

  • Pain when you move your neck.

  • Fatigue.

  • Decreased range of motion in the neck.

  • Numbness or tingling in the arms.

  • Pain or tenderness in the arms, upper back, or shoulders.


You may also experience depression, blurred vision, memory problems, tinnitus, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sleep disturbances.

How Long After a Car Accident Can Whiplash Occur?

It is difficult to diagnose whiplash using an X-ray alone. This is why people tend to experience symptoms differently. If you previously suffered from multiple neck and back injuries, for example, your symptoms will be significantly more life-impacting and severe than a person without prior injuries. This, however, is not always the case.

This type of injury is dangerous because its symptoms may have a significantly delayed effect after the initial damage. In the aftermath of a car accident, the emergency response team will immediately ask you whether you are experiencing any neck or back pain. You may not feel the effects of whiplash right away.

After the accident, adrenaline in your body may mask pain. As your disks, muscles, and nerves settle after the initial impact, however, you may start experiencing certain symptoms of whiplash.

While most of the symptoms may appear in the first few days after the accident, some may develop months or even years later. This is what the medical community calls late Whiplash Syndrome. If you start experiencing any of the symptoms listed above weeks or months after your accident, you should visit your doctor and/or a licensed chiropractor.

To learn more about the symptoms of whiplash, call ReAlignMed in Chicago at 773-665-4400 today to book an appointment.

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