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Why Whiplash Symptoms Sustained in an Auto Accident Are Often Delayed

Each year in the United States, there are six million car accidents and three million injuries on the nation’s nearly 4.2 million miles of roadways. One of the leading injuries in a car accident is whiplash, which can cause symptoms that develop within 24 hours, or weeks, months, and even years later.

Here at the Pain Center of NJ, Dr. Ira Siegel and our team have extensive experience with auto injuries, and we understand how the symptoms of whiplash can sometimes be delayed.

In the following, we explore what happens when you experience whiplash, the symptoms for which to look out, and what we can do to help.

The anatomy of whiplash

Whiplash occurs when your head is violently rocked back and forth, which typically occurs when you’re rear-ended, though it can happen under other circumstances. 

When a car hits you from behind, your head and neck are suddenly thrust forward, bending your cervical spine and its connective tissues beyond their normal flexion abilities.

Next, the vertebrae in your lower neck extend away from the forward movement, causing an S-shaped curve in your cervical spine.

Finally, your entire neck extends in an arcing motion before your head comes to a stop.

When these sudden and violent movements affect the muscles, cervical discs, nerves, and tendons in your neck, you’re left with whiplash.

Recognizing whiplash

In most cases, the signs of whiplash develop within the first 24 hours of the auto accident, but it can also take days for them to appear. Key warning signs you should look out for are:

It’s important to note that some of these symptoms are related to whiplash concussion, which is a serious brain injury.

Though rare, some symptoms can develop much later, sometimes by weeks or months, and even years. In these cases, it’s likely that the whiplash concussion isn’t healing properly, which can leave you with cognitive, mood, and sleep disturbances.

When to seek help for whiplash

Since whiplash symptoms can be delayed, we believe it’s best to err on the side of caution and come see us as soon as possible after your car accident, especially one in which your head was rocked back and forth.

When you come in, we perform a comprehensive evaluation of your health using the most advanced diagnostic tools available. If we find that there might be evidence of whiplash, we can take early steps to help you heal, which can also prevent larger complications down the road.

Even if we find no evidence of whiplash, you have peace of mind knowing that you escaped the accident unscathed.

If you’re at all unsure about whether to seek medical attention after a car accident, please contact one of our six New Jersey locations in West Orange, Bayonne, Union City, Ridgefield, Edison, and Union.

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