Delayed Whiplash: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

You’re sitting at your desk, or maybe it’s on your drive home from work when you notice your neck is feeling a little stiff and sore. Now you’re trying to remember when you started feeling this way.

If you’ve recently been in an accident or any situation that caused your head to snap back and forth quickly, then you may be experiencing delayed whiplash.

How can you be sure and what do you need to do next?

We take a closer look at why whiplash symptoms can be delayed and what your best treatment options are.

Table of Contents

delayed whiplash

Can Whiplash Symptoms Be Delayed?

Yes, the fact is whiplash symptoms can be delayed, even though it’s not common. In most cases, you will feel some pain or stiffness within hours of a whiplash injury, some circumstances may lead to these symptoms being delayed.

How Long Can Whiplash Symptoms Be Delayed?

Whiplash symptoms may creep up on you within a couple of hours or even days. 

An automobile accident is a traumatic event that will typically spur the production of adrenaline. A short delay in symptoms (a couple of hours) is usually caused by the adrenaline wearing off. 

Adrenaline diverts your concentration from pain to something else, making it so that the pain doesn’t exist. In the case of an automobile accident, the adrenaline can last for up to an hour after you’ve been removed from the situation.

However, symptoms may take longer than a few hours to appear. In passive structure injuries (such as the neck), the inflammation doesn’t peak until later because of a poor blood supply to those structures. This may result in a delay of 24 hours to 7 days

To make matters worse, whiplash symptoms are not always recognized right away. Some patients report not noticing symptoms for weeks, or even months.

What If Pain Does Not Occur for Weeks or Months?

Typically, pain not felt for weeks or months is one of two things:

  1. Failing to recognize, or ignoring, the symptoms of whiplash
  2. Compensation following an acute musculoskeletal injury

Compensatory injuries are the body’s natural attempt at normal functioning after an injury so that you can continue to perform your daily activities.

The best thing you can do immediately following an accident is to book an appointment with a chiropractor.

Injuries that cannot be felt at first can cause serious issues later if they’re not addressed as quickly as possible.

A chiropractor can assess your neck, back, arms and legs and provide immediate treatment to the affected areas.

If you suspect you have delayed whiplash symptoms and you live in the Portland, OR, area, contact Cascade Spine & Injury Center. We specialize in accident injuries using modern techniques and equipment in our state-of-the-art facility.

delayed whiplash treatment

What Causes Delayed Whiplash?

While automobile accidents are the most common cause of whiplash, there are less common causes that could result in delayed whiplash, including:

  • Blows to the head
  • Contact sports
  • Falling in a way that causes the head to snap
  • Skating, skiing, snowboarding, or cycling accidents
  • Amusement park rides
  • Physical abuse

If you’ve been involved in a car accident or any one of the above accidents, and you begin to feel pain in your neck within hours, days, or even months, you may have delayed whiplash.

What Are the Symptoms of Delayed Whiplash?

Whiplash injuries cause physical changes to the cervicocranial junction (where the neck meets the base of the skull) and your cervical spine (neck). When not corrected, these changes can cause pain and discomfort that may persist and worsen over time.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck, upper or lower back, or shoulders
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Jaw pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Numbness or burning sensation in the arms or legs
  • Memory loss and/or difficulty concentrating
  • Constant weariness
  • Irritability 

If you’re exhibiting any number of the symptoms listed above, you may be experiencing delayed whiplash and should seek treatment as soon as possible.

Does Delayed Whiplash Need To Be Treated?

Yes. If left untreated, symptoms can persist and worsen over time. 

Acute pain in the neck, back, or shoulders following a car accident should not be ignored. Whether it’s a few hours or a few weeks, you should seek medical treatment right away.

You may think your pain isn’t severe enough to warrant visiting the chiropractor, but any amount of pain should be addressed. 

Whiplash may not be the only concern. It’s possible you could have suffered more serious injuries, such as:

  • Pinched nerves
  • Ruptured spinal discs
  • Small fractures

Over time, these injuries can also worsen and lead to severe and permanent disabilities if not treated.

What Happens if Delayed Whiplash Is Left Untreated?

When left untreated, pain may become chronic. More than 40% of people with whiplash experience persistent and chronic neck pain and disability for years following the accident. These are called whiplash-associated disorders (WAD).

Chronic pain can interfere with your daily life, limit your ability to work, drive, and engage in your hobbies, and can alter your sense of well-being.

can whiplash symptoms be delayed

What Treatments Are Available for Delayed Whiplash?

Seeking treatment as soon as you can following an automobile accident or any other accident that may have resulted in whiplash is critical to your healing. 

A chiropractor can provide treatment that will minimize symptoms and cure whiplash quicker than if you wait to get help. 

Additionally, your chiropractor can educate you on specific exercises, stretches, and treatments you can do at home to support the healing process.

Home Remedies

If you are unable to seek treatment right away, for any reason, certain home remedies may help with mild cases of whiplash. These include:

  • Ice and heat
    • Use ice and heat throughout the day to help with pain and stiffness.
    • Heat packs can soothe the injured area and loosen up the muscles.
    • Ice should be used in 20-minute intervals, making sure to separate the ice from the skin using a cloth.
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
    • Most people keep ibuprofen at home. This can be used to reduce inflammation and pain, but should not be the only thing you do for treatment.
  • Gentle stretching
    • Stretching your neck from side to side and back to front may help speed up the healing process as it loosens the neck muscles. However, you should stop stretching if it is causing pain and try to see a chiropractor as soon as possible.
  • CBD oil
  • Topical Analgesics
    • BioFreeze, and similar products, can provide a respite from pain and increase flexibility temporarily.
  • Ginger

It’s important to note that home remedies should not take the place of medical treatment. Whiplash is a serious condition that usually requires a combination of therapies, including chiropractic, massage, and even acupuncture.

Chiropractic Care

The emotional trauma of an accident is devastating, but the injuries can be much worse. If your body is positioned a certain way, or the accident is severe, the impact can cause life-changing injuries.

From spinal injuries to concussions to whiplash and so much more, auto accidents can leave us with years of recovery ahead.

Some of the most intense injuries occur in the spine, which can affect your ability to move and cause pain in other parts of your body. The disruption to your daily life can be staggering.

Chiropractic treatment can make a huge difference in the way you feel and how quickly you overcome such injuries. Chiropractors work on your joint, muscles, and nerves, the very parts of your body that are most affected in an accident.

Chiropractic care is a natural method of healing the body after injury.

Dr. McClaren at Cascade Spine & Injury Center in Portland is an accredited Accident Reconstructionist and has extensive experience treating whiplash and other traumatic injuries caused by automobile and other accidents.

If you believe you may be suffering from delayed whiplash, give us a call to book your initial consultation.

delayed whiplash treatment

Massage Therapy

As part of an integrative treatment plan for delayed whiplash, your chiropractor may suggest seeing a massage therapist to complement your chiropractic care.

Massage therapy involves the manipulation of the soft tissues of your body, such as your:

  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Connective tissue; and
  • Skin

Massage therapists apply varying degrees of pressure to help alleviate the symptoms of delayed whiplash and loosen the muscles surrounding the spine and increase the effectiveness of chiropractic care.


Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles into the skin at specific places on your body.

It’s been used for thousands of years as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is widely practiced throughout the world.

The result of acupuncture as a complementary treatment to chiropractic care is:

  • Accelerated healing
  • Reduction of pain
  • Releasing tight muscles
  • Improvement of the many body systems

It is not painful and works to improve the flow of chi, or life energy, through the body’s various meridians or channels.

For your convenience, both acupuncture and massage therapy are available at our Portland, OR clinic. Contact us at Cascade Spine & Injury Center and we’ll design a customized treatment plan based on the severity of your whiplash.

delayed whiplash symptoms

How Long Will It Take To Cure Delayed Whiplash?

Depending on the severity of the whiplash and how quickly your treatment begins, you could be fully cured within a matter of days or up to three months.

The key is to seek medical help as soon as you feel any symptoms related to whiplash or delayed whiplash.

The sooner a doctor of chiropractic care can assess and begin treatment on your injured neck, the sooner you will begin to feel better. 

Consistency in your treatment is important. You may be required to see a chiropractor two to three days a week at the beginning stages of your treatment plan, tapering down as you improve. 

But, by following the recommended treatment, you’ll heal more quickly and will be able to return to your daily activities completely pain-free.

Cascade Spine & Injury Center: Treating Delayed Whiplash in Portland, OR

We see ourselves as your partners in health. If you’ve been injured in an automobile or other type of accident, we have you covered.

We specialize in the safe and successful chiropractic treatment of delayed whiplash and other types of auto injuries.

As a specialized chiropractic care physician, Dr. McClaren provides complete treatment designed to improve your quality of life.

Our focus is the targeted treatment of your whiplash, alleviating pain, and improving your mobility after traumatic accidents.

Call us today to schedule your initial screening.

delayed whiplash treatment

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

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