For some people, whiplash symptoms can be so minor that they go away within a couple days. For others, the symptoms can become varied and chronic, ranging from severe pain to cognitive and emotional problems.
See Chronic Neck Pain: What Condition Is Causing My Neck Pain?
Whiplash symptoms might manifest immediately following the acceleration-deceleration accident, or they can take a few hours or days to appear. Oftentimes the exact underlying cause remains unknown for some whiplash symptoms despite today’s best diagnostic techniques. Due to the potentially high number and varied complexity of whiplash symptoms, they are sometimes collectively referred to as whiplash-associated disorders.
Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash include:
Neck pain. The pain could range anywhere from mild to severe. It might be located in one spot or general area, or it could also radiate down the shoulder into the arm and/or hand. Typically, neck pain from whiplash is caused by ligament sprains or muscle strains, but it can also be caused by injuries to discs, nerves, joints, and/or bones. Neck stiffness or reduced range of motion. Reduced neck mobility could be from pain, tightening of a muscle, or a mechanical problem, such as with a joint. See Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Headache. A neck muscle tightening, or a nerve or joint of the cervical spine becoming irritated could cause headaches. Neck instability. This whiplash symptom commonly results from stretched or torn soft tissues, such as ligaments. Although, it could also be caused by a fracture. Shoulder and/or upper back pain. If the neck’s soft tissues, such as muscles or ligaments, are torn or strained during whiplash, then sometimes that pain can also be referred to other soft tissues in the upper back and shoulders. See Could That Shoulder Pain Really Stem From the Neck? Radiating tingling, weakness, or numbness. Sometimes whiplash can cause one of the neck’s spinal nerve roots to become compressed or inflamed, which can lead to cervical radiculopathy symptoms of tingling, weakness, and/or numbness radiating down the shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers. Typically, cervical radiculopathy is only felt on one side of the body, but in rare cases it can be felt on both sides if more than one nerve root is affected. See What Causes Hand Pain and Numbness?
Anywhere from just one whiplash symptom all the way up to numerous symptoms can present at once. Symptoms can also come and go at various times.
Sometimes whiplash symptoms persist or get worse with time, and finding their root causes often proves elusive.
See Neck Pain Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis