248-543-3566 28931 Woodward Ave, Berkley, MI 48072
248-543-3566 28931 Woodward Ave, Berkley, MI 48072

What Happens When Whiplash Goes Untreated?


In 2019, one of the most interesting affairs debated by the Oireachtas Éireann, the legislature serving the Republic of Ireland, involved the soft tissue injury commonly referred to as whiplash. While discussing reforms to the various laws and rules that regulate the auto insurance industry, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar criticized existing liability insurance laws by pointing out that 90% of Irish drivers who have been in a motor vehicle accident stop seeking treatment for whiplash after receiving nice payouts from insurance companies; in other words, PM Varadkar believes that many drivers exaggerate the extent of their injuries, and he is also considering imposing penalties for those who submit claims that could be considered to be fraudulent.

While the issue of fraud in insurance claims is certainly worrisome, it should be noted that drivers who may actually suffer from whiplash and decide to stop seeking treatment after getting checks from insurance companies could be exposing effects to negative long-term effects. The problem with whiplash is that it is too often dismissed as being a minor injury; while it is true that there are far more serious situations that may arise from motor vehicle collisions, untreated whiplash has the potential of developing into something that is more serious than just a pain the neck.

Understanding Whiplash and Why It Tends to be Overlooked

Let’s say two cars with no passengers are involved in a head-on collision that paramedics are able to respond to right away; as the rescuers arrive on the scene, they notice one of the drivers bleeding and with an arm twisted to an unnatural angle. The other driver looks shaken but in good shape and without visible signs of cuts, bruises, or fractures. On one hand, the driver who is bleeding and has a clearly fractured arm needs emergency care and will probably be rushed to the hospital; on the other hand, the driver who appears to have luckily avoided major injury will more than likely forgo treatment.

Should the fortunate driver start feeling neck discomfort the day after the accident, there is a strong chance of whiplash going through its initial course. Whiplash is commonly associated with car accidents because of what often happens during a collision whereby the next overextends in two opposite directions, particularly in rear-end and head-on crashes; nonetheless, it can also happen while playing contact sports or at work. Since whiplash is not a fracture, many people think that it is nothing to worry about, just a fleeting pain that will go away on its own, but this is not always the case.

Failure to Treat Whiplash

What often happens in whiplash situations is that the patients’ own dismissal comes into play. Unless the soft tissue injury is clearly visible on an x-ray image, healthcare professionals will inquire about certain symptoms and tell patients to return for treatment if they feel:

  • Strong headaches at the base of the cranium.
  •  Unexplained disorientation or vertigo.
  •  Radiating pain.
  •  Discomfort when turning their heads.

In addition to the symptoms above, whiplash may also bring about tinnitus, a ghostly ringing in the ears that becomes louder when the head is turned in a certain direction. When these symptoms are not overbearing, patients will ignore them in the hopes that they will eventually return to normal. The next thing they notice is that the radiating pain becomes chronic, meaning that it gradually worsens and intensifies over time.

Bad Cases of Whiplash

Here is what can happen when whiplash is left untreated:

  • Migraines: Pain that starts at the neck and continues upwards has a tendency to cause debilitating headaches.
  • Reduced range of motion: Depending on the extent of the soft tissue injury and how it interacts with the cervical and spinal structure, the initial stiffness may develop into a limited range of motion. When not even stretching helps to promote flexibility, you know that whiplash has worsened.
  • Depression: This is a typical reaction to chronic pain. You may start out feeling uncomfortable before getting angry and feeling hopeless because the pain does not seem to go away.
  • Vertigo: Even after the soft tissue trauma heals, the synapses that connect with the brain may still be compromised, thus causing dizziness and a feeling of being out of balance. This diminished equilibrium may be accompanied by nausea and disorientation.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help Whiplash Patients

Not every fender-bender will end up with whiplash conditions; in fact, many drivers just feel an initial discomfort that goes away without experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, but there is no way of telling when whiplash will get complicated. Neck pain that persists for more than 48 hours is a sign that there may be more than just a soft tissue injury to worry about, and this is when you should schedule a visit to a chiropractic clinic.

As with any medical evaluation, chiropractors will gather subjective and objective observations before coming up with an assessment as well as a treatment plan if needed. Depending on the observations, x-rays may be requested. There is always a chance that the pain you feel is related to a slight injury that will eventually heal; however, it is better to be determine the full extent of the injury.

Here’s something that many drivers are not aware of with regard to whiplash: The neck is just one part of the body that may be affected after a car crash. Keep in mind that your spine runs all the way from your neck to your back, which means that whiplash may also involve back sprains, impacted discs, and other spinal injuries. A significant aspect of chiropractic care deals with proper spinal alignment; it is not uncommon to learn that the spine has become misaligned after a motor vehicle accident, and this is a condition that chiropractors specialize in. Discomfort in the neck may be indicative of a spinal nerve pair that has become pinched after the accident, which means that the pain you feel at the base of your skull may be actually be radiating from the upper vertebrae.

Some Whiplash Statistics You Should Know

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, cervical acceleration or deceleration is a condition that affects more than three million Americans each year; this statistic includes drivers, passengers, athletes, construction workers, and other individuals who report symptoms of whiplash. In rear-end motor vehicle accidents, the risk of whiplash is as high as 68%. Chronic neck pain is felt by more than a million drivers and passengers regardless of whether they were protected by seat belts or airbags.

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