One injury that most people have heard of is called whiplash. Whiplash happens most often in car crashes when the person’s head quickly whips forward and back. The neck, shoulders and head are jolted in a such a way that ligaments and tendons may be stretched and strained or torn.

While whiplash cases vary, they can be significant. One person might have a minor case from a low-speed car crash while another has debilitating pain from whiplash caused by a high-speed collision.

If you think you’re fine, you may not be

One of the most interesting things about whiplash is how it develops. After the initial jolt, you may not feel unusual. You may have a slight amount of soreness or light pain, but nothing that you’d worry about.

It’s 24 to 48 hours later that whiplash truly sets in. At that point, the neck, shoulders and upper back may become extremely stiff and cause serious headaches. Some people feel dizzy, and others have nausea. You might be sensitive to light or sound as a result of the pain in your head, too.

Do people recover from whiplash?

Most people do recover from whiplash, but it’s possible to have chronic pain, too. There can be long-lasting complications to watch out for, such as severe neck pain, pain that spreads to the arms and headaches that are debilitating. If your symptoms were intense following the accident, you’re much more likely to have chronic pain or long-term complications from whiplash.

How do you recover from whiplash?

Many people who have whiplash recover by going through physical therapy. At physical therapy sessions, heat or cold may be used to help soothe tense muscles. Massage or trigger-point therapies could be used to improve circulation. Specific, targetted exercises are used to build back up strength in the affected region, which helps reduce stiffness and pain.

For people who have trouble with their spinal discs or tears in the ligaments or tendons in the neck, surgery is sometimes necessary. In that case, you’ll need to work closely with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that will give you the most relief and help you on your way to recovering from severe whiplash.

After a crash causing whiplash, you should always seek immediate medical care. Early treatment may reduce the pain and stiffness that comes with this injury, so you have a better chance of recovery.