Chronic whiplash, also known as whiplash syndrome, is used to refer to whiplash symptoms that last longer than six months.
The symptoms and long-term effects associated with chronic whiplash are as follows.
Image by Michael Dorausch
Neck Pain And Stiffness
If the neck pain and stiffness persists for more than six months after the accident, this is a symptom of chronic whiplash.
Neck pain and stiffness can also make chronic whiplash worse, by making sufferers more reluctant to keep their neck mobile. This is a mistake, as gentle neck exercises and physiotherapy are an important part of recovering from whiplash.
Using painkillers may enable you to keep your neck mobile, and will at least mitigate the pain and suffering you experience. Always check with a doctor to make sure that there isn’t another, underlying problem causing your neck pain, as keeping your neck mobile is not advisable in the case of more serious injury.
Neck pain and stiffness may prevent you from being able to drive – not because of pain to you, but because the pain and stiffness may prevent you from being able to quickly check your blind spots and general surroundings effectively. This could make you a danger to others.
A persistent headache is a common side-effect of chronic whiplash. A severe headache that gets consistently worse might be a sign of a more serious head injury, so if this starts to happen immediately after the accident and becomes substantially worse you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Persistent headaches can prevent patients from thinking clearly or attending work, especially if they are expected to work with heavy machinery or in a noisy environment.
Persistent headache in conjunction with neck pain and stiffness is a very good sign that you should ask your doctor if you have chronic whiplash.
Dizziness in chronic whiplash can prevent you from living your life as normal, making commuting into work much more difficult and making any job based around driving challenging if not dangerous.
In chronic whiplash, dizziness and vertigo is speculated to arise from contradictions between information from the eyes and information about body position coming from the inner ear, owing to awkward positioning of the head and neck.
If this is correct, dizziness may respond well to proper pain management.
Pins & Needles In The Arms
Pins and needles in the arms, or paraesthesia of the arms, can occur over a long period of time.
Paraesthesia, numbness, and unexplained pain in the arms tends to occur shortly after an accident but resolve within two months. If it continues longer than that, you may have chronic whiplash.
Depression & Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are terrible mental health issues to deal with on top of everything else.
Depression and anxiety as a result of whiplash may be due to an inability to work, exercise or socialise as you did before the accident, chronic pain from the whiplash, the psychological trauma of the initial accident, or a combination of factors.
Whiplash may also cause pre-existing depression and anxiety to become worse.
Depressive symptoms are recurrent or persistent in 37.6% of patients who develop depression after suffering whiplash, indicating that long-term depression is a serious concern for whiplash sufferers.
What Do I Do About Chronic Whiplash?
Chronic whiplash is extremely frustrating to deal with, and often feels like it should have an easy solution. Unfortunately, the best way to deal with it currently appears to be with painkillers and various forms of physiotherapy, as well as alternative therapies.
We also have a useful resource in case you’re looking for information on how chronic whiplash interacts with existing conditions.
In the short term, it is worth exploring your options with regard to whiplash compensation and the cost of pursuing a whiplash case. Chronic whiplash is especially harmful, causing sufferers to lose valuable working time and serious impairment of their ability to live a normal life in addition to psychiatric injury.