Mythbusters! – Addressing 7 Common Whiplash Myths

Most often, you associate whiplash as a result of a motor vehicle accident (MVA). While it’s a very common injury in rear-end accidents, it can also happen in other kinds of car accidents as well as injuries associated with falls or sports. 

When the neck, shoulders, and torso are forced to suddenly move out of the ordinary range of motion, it leads to damage to the ligaments, muscles, and tendons. There are varying levels of whiplash. Whether your injury is considered mild, moderate, or severe, there are some common misconceptions surrounding whiplash injuries that we feel are important to clear up. While we hope you’re never in an MVA, we hope you keep the following information in mind if you are… 

Myth #1: Whiplash will only occur if you take a “big hit”.

Reality: Whiplash comes from a rapid back and forth movement of your head and neck. It doesn’t take a lot of force for whiplash to occur. Even a minor parking lot fender bender where vehicles are going less than 10 MPH may not seem serious but can lead to whiplash. 

Myth #2: Whiplash will hurt right away.

Reality: Sometimes the initial shock of being in an accident is enough to keep you from noticing your symptoms right away. While it’s common to notice symptoms within 24 hours, it can take several days, and in some cases months, for a whiplash injury to present itself.

Keep an eye out for symptoms that can be as obvious as neck and/or shoulder pain but also headaches, lower back pain, dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, and trouble sleeping.

Myth #3: Only your neck will hurt.

Reality: So many of our muscles are interconnected. Beyond your neck, you could experience pain in your upper back, shoulders, even your jaw. Don’t assume just because your neck doesn’t hurt you don’t have a whiplash injury.

Myth #4: Whiplash will stop hurting on its own.

Reality: This one may only be a partial myth. On some rare occasions, a whiplash injury will heal on its own. But more often than not, it won’t. Some research indicated that up to 50% of people who experience a whiplash injury will never fully recover.

Myth #5: You will recover quickly.

Reality: Some people assume that pain experienced from whiplash will go away within a few days or weeks. Considering that some whiplash injuries don’t even present themselves for weeks, this assumption is incorrect. In fact, depending on the severity of the injury, whiplash can take a year or more to fully heal.

Myth #6: Anti-inflammatory meds will help fix it.

Reality: Medications only mask the symptoms. Studies have shown that some medications can actually delay the healing process for soft tissue injuries.

Myth #7: Rest is best.

Reality: We’ve said it before, and we will say it again (and again and again!). Bodies are made to move. Studies suggest that mobilization and manipulation performed as soon as possible after a whiplash injury yields significantly better outcomes than immobilization. Prolonged rest can actually stiffen muscles and extend your recovery time. You should try and return to regular activity as your body allows (and your PT or PCP approves it).

Whiplash injuries, when not properly treated, often have long-term consequences and can lead to chronic pain. 

Got questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? If you’ve recently been in a Motor Vehicle Accident and you’re concerned you’ve been injured, make sure you seek medical treatment. Your primary care physician may prescribe physical therapy. The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits. Follow us on Facebook.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.  

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