Whiplash is a serious condition, though it is one of the most common in car crashes. Many people think of whiplash as a simple condition that will resolve on its own, but it can be severe enough to cause lasting, chronic pain and dysfunction.

Whiplash happens when your head is thrown forward or sideways during a traffic collision. That rapid whipping motion strains the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck. When the impact is severe enough, the muscles, tendons or ligaments could tear or be damaged.

The interesting thing about a case of whiplash is that it doesn’t usually appear right away. For example, Jane could be involved in a crash on Thursday and feel fine to go to work. She might run errands throughout the day and go to bed thinking everything is fine. Then, on Friday morning, she may suddenly have trouble moving her neck and have a severe headache. That’s typical for whiplash.

Inflammation takes time to set in. So do the other symptoms of whiplash, such as:

  • Low back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentration or remembering
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Pain in the shoulders or between the shoulder blades
  • Headaches

These symptoms can develop 24 hours or longer after the initial impact of a car crash. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to go to the hospital no matter how you feel. Recognizing whiplash before the inflammation and other symptoms appear can help you treat it and minimize the pain and dysfunction that it can cause.

If you do develop whiplash after you refused to go to the hospital, drive yourself or have someone take you. You can still include this in your claim as long as it is related to the collision.