What Is Late Whiplash Syndrome?

a woman driving a car in rhode island

Whiplash is a common neck and back injury that causes acute and long-term pain, emotional distress, and decreased quality of life. It’s one of the most common late-appearing car accident injuries resulting from the forces exerted on the body during an accident. 

The injury itself happens instantly, but not all symptoms appear immediately. Some patients do not develop whiplash symptoms until weeks or even months later. This is called delayed whiplash or late whiplash syndrome. 

Both acute and delayed whiplash can have long-term consequences. Many patients face costly medical treatment and lost income, sometimes for months or years. 

If you have suffered whiplash symptoms at any time after your accident, Marasco & Nesselbush’s Rhode Island car accident lawyers may be able to help. We’re committed to fighting for the rights of accident victims, no matter when they develop symptoms.  

If you or a loved one are suffering from delayed whiplash symptoms after a car accident, call (401) 443-2999 today to find out how much you may be able to pursue in damages. Whiplash is serious, and we’re here to fight for the compensation you deserve. 

Delayed Whiplash Symptoms

Every year, more than 800,000 people in the United States suffer whiplash injuries in car accidents. One study estimated that even in “minor” crashes, 65 percent of injured occupants report experiencing whiplash. 

Whiplash symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Shoulder or back pain
  • Muscle or ligament damage
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Jaw pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems

Whiplash symptoms may appear immediately after the accident or develop over time. Some victims only start experiencing symptoms days or weeks after an incident. Healthcare professionals know this experience as delayed whiplash or late whiplash syndrome. Like acute whiplash, it can become a chronic and disabling condition. 

What causes delayed whiplash?

To understand the causes of delayed whiplash, you need to know what can cause whiplash in its acute form. 

Whiplash damages the neck’s bones and soft tissues — the tendons, muscles, and ligaments that support the head and neck. Car accident victims often develop whiplash due to a sudden impact that causes the head to snap or “whip” in one direction and then the other. This movement strains the joints and tissues and can cause long-term damage. 

Suppose you were driving with a seatbelt and stopped at a light. If someone rear-ended you, the car would lurch forward. Your seatbelt would hold your torso against the seat, but your head would snap forward as the car suddenly stopped. Not having enough time to stretch and bend safely, a muscle or tendon might tear. 

While some patients experience immediate pain and other symptoms, some patients’ bodies take longer to register the damage and launch an immune response. The cause of whiplash symptoms is the swelling and pain associated with it. Thus, if the affected area of the body don’t swell immediately, the patient doesn’t experience pain or discomfort until days or weeks later. 

Some patients don’t notice whiplash symptoms or dismiss them as unrelated. For example, someone with frequent headaches or shoulder pain may disregard such signs when they happen after a car accident. Likewise, a person who frequently feels tired, foggy, or anxious may dismiss the mental and emotional effects of whiplash injuries. Taking all symptoms seriously after a car accident is essential since they may develop into something worse. 

Why underestimating whiplash injuries should be avoided

Researchers have found that only half of all patients with whiplash fully recover. The rest suffer varying levels of long-term disability.  

In one study, 50 percent of whiplash patients still suffered from chronic pain six months after their injury. Chronic pain has severe negative consequences, including a dramatically increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts. Another study showed that car accident victims with whiplash injuries have an increased risk of headaches, back pain, sleep problems, and overall ill health. 

The best way to reduce your risk of long-term complications is to seek medical attention after your accident, even if you don’t have severe pain or discomfort. It’s easy to miss or minimize whiplash symptoms, especially if your body hasn’t yet begun to repair the damage.  

A physician will review your symptoms and ask about the details of your accident.  Then, they will likely order diagnostic imaging tests such as an X-ray or computerized tomography scan, if necessary. These comprehensive exams are the first step to effective diagnosis and treatment. 

Researchers have linked whiplash treatment to more positive outcomes. Seeing a doctor could make the difference between chronic suffering and recovery. Medical records also serve as important evidence in legal proceedings should you seek compensation for your injuries.

How are whiplash injuries treated?

There are several strategies for treating whiplash. The traditional treatment plan involved prolonged rest, restricted mobility, and a gradual return to full activity. However, recent studies have shown that too much rest can restrict recovery

As a result, active range-of-motion exercises have replaced rest as the gold standard for whiplash treatment. Your doctor may recommend that you rest for a day or two, but expect to begin exercise and physical therapy soon after your injury. 

If you have pain from delayed whiplash, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following: 

  • Heat or cold treatment 
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers for mild or moderate discomfort 
  • Prescription medication for more severe nerve pain 
  • Muscle relaxants 
  • Numbing injections, if your pain makes therapy difficult 

Gentle exercise is a crucial component of whiplash treatment. Your doctor may prescribe home exercises, such as: 

  • Neck rotations 
  • Sideways neck tilts, bringing the ear closer to the shoulder 
  • Slow head nods 
  • Shoulder rolls 

You may also receive a referral to a physical therapist. A physical therapist will provide hands on therapy and a personalized exercise program geared toward your unique injuries. No two cases of whiplash are alike, so each treatment plan is different. For example, depending on the type of neck strain you’ve suffered, your physical therapist will employ different techniques and prescribe specialized exercises to strengthen the injured part of the neck. 

Persistent symptoms require longer-term and potentially more intensive treatment. Some patients with joint instability require surgery if they don’t respond to medical therapies. The costs can increase quickly, especially for persistent symptoms that resist initial treatments. 

If you have experienced whiplash symptoms due to someone else’s negligence, the trusted car accident lawyers at Marasco & Nesselbush are ready to help you today. 

Legal representation for your whiplash injury

When people suffer whiplash symptoms, delayed or otherwise, they often start by filing an insurance claim. Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to deny whiplash claims, citing a lack of evidence or downplaying the severity of your pain.  

It can be tough to get a fair payout for delayed whiplash symptoms so having an experienced car accident lawyer on your side is essential to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. 

The skilled personal injury attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush have over 24 years of experience representing people with delayed neck pain due to whiplash caused by car accidents. Whether your car accident injuries were evident right after your accident or are late-appearing injuries, call us now at (401) 443-2999, or fill out a form online to schedule your free case review. We’re ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.

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