How Long Does Whiplash Take to Heal? A Helpful Guide

You’ve heard of whiplash but had never before experienced it. Now a car has hit you from behind when you were stopped at a yield sign waiting for the traffic to clear.

You’re wondering if you might have whiplash and what you should do about it.

You’re not alone — about 3 million Americans suffer from whiplash every year. But a whiplash diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to be in pain forever.

We’ll let you know how long whiplash can last, what you may experience if you have it, and the steps you need to take to heal completely.

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Worried You’re Suffering From Whiplash? Don’t Wait to Seek Treatment

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by forceful and fast back-and-forth movement of the neck. 

Think of the motion of a whip cracking — that’s what your neck does when whiplash happens. No wonder it can be such a serious injury.

Whiplash commonly occurs as a result of auto accidents, but it can also be caused by:

  • Sports accidents
  • Physical abuse
  • Falls
  • Horseback riding
  • Heavy blows to the head

No matter what the cause of your whiplash case is, you should get treated for it immediately. Why?

Many people like to wait and see how they feel after an auto accident or other injury before deciding if it really warrants seeking help. But that can be a huge mistake.

Patients who get treatment as soon as possible after an accident have better results than those who wait.

You may not feel the pain from whiplash right away, but the tissues in your neck have likely been stretched and torn. This causes your body to create scar tissue to protect itself, which leads to further mobility problems.

Getting early treatment such as chiropractic care will help. Let’s find out how.

How to Recover From Whiplash Quickly

As we said before, the first step in your whiplash timeline — after the actual injury, of course — should be to seek treatment. This greatly increases your chance of having quicker healing from whiplash.

Recovery from whiplash varies for each person, but there is evidence that it tends to happen within three months of the injury with proper care.

Whiplash treatment goals include:

  • Controlling pain
  • Restoring the normal range of motion in the neck; and
  • Getting patients back to their normal activities

Traditional treatments for whiplash include:

  • Rest — But be warned: too much bed rest can delay recovery, so make sure you are moving around as your body can tolerate it.
  • Application of heat or cold to the affected area — Your doctor can advise which is best for your particular case, or if you should alternate between the two.
  • Medications — Over-the-counter remedies, prescription medications, or injections may be needed.
  • Exercise — Your doctor may recommend doing stretches or other movements at home, or he may want you to pursue it further with a physical therapist.
  • Foam collars — These can help with pain right after the injury, but shouldn’t be worn too much to avoid interference with recovery.

Of course, we feel that the best course of treatment — and the superior way to recover from whiplash quickly – is to seek chiropractic care.

Seeing a Chiropractor Can Help Heal Your Whiplash Injury

Chiropractic care aims to heal — and not mask — neck pain. While medication and muscle relaxers may help temporarily, chiropractic care will get to the root of the problem so you can have lasting comfort.

A chiropractor is trained to perform joint manipulation techniques that can provide pain relief and lead your body to heal itself.

Chiropractic treatment for whiplash can help relieve pain and other symptoms like … 

  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness; and 
  • Soreness

… caused by your neck injury.

Cascade Spine & Injury Center provides top-notch treatments for your whiplash, including:

  • Chiropractic care — We use advanced treatment techniques such as Diversified Motion Palpitation, Drop Table, and Instrument Adjusting.
  • Massage therapy — This loosens tight muscles, increases flexibility, and reduces pain.
  • Acupuncture — This treatment allows your body to heal itself naturally while reducing pain and restoring full function.
  • Exercise rehab — These stretches and exercises are tailored to each patient to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance.
  • Treatment modalities — We use therapies such as hot laser, ultrasound, interferential current, traction, and more.

Common Whiplash Symptoms

Since whiplash can injure …

  • Bones in the spine
  • Disks between the bones
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves; and
  • Other tissues of the neck

… it can cause a host of problems in the body. Common signs and symptoms of whiplash may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Headaches, specifically those starting at the base of the skull
  • Tenderness/pain in the shoulders, upper back, and arms
  • Tingling/numbness in the arms
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

These symptoms usually develop within days of the injury. But as we said before, you shouldn’t wait for them to happen before you seek care.

More severe cases of whiplash may also involve:

  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression

None of this sounds fun, and if left untreated they can lead to more serious injuries and debilitating pain.

Why Whiplash Symptoms Can Be Delayed

Think about a time when you’ve done a rigorous workout. Did you feel sore right away?

No! You usually don’t feel it until you get up the next day. Maybe you did a ton of squats, and now you’re having trouble walking down the stairs of your home even though they presented no issue right after the workout.

Whiplash acts the same way. The soreness usually doesn’t show up until later.

People who have experienced auto accidents or other trauma often have their bodies go into a mild state of shock, dulling the sensation of pain.

If this happens, victims can injure themselves even further by moving around in ways they shouldn’t because they don’t realize that they are hurt.

There’s even something called late whiplash syndrome, in which the symptoms and disabilities related to an auto accident don’t present themselves for six months or more. This is all the more reason to seek treatment right away!

What Factors Can Determine How Long It Takes for Whiplash to Heal?

If you are suffering from this ailment you’re probably wondering, “How long does it take for whiplash to heal?” The answer can depend on several factors. If any of these issues relate to your injury, it could take much longer to heal or even become a chronic condition.


If the victim experiences severe pain at the time of the injury, this indicates more damage and can lead to longer healing times.


Older people tend to have more spine degeneration and pre-existing conditions, which makes them more vulnerable to whiplash injuries and can take them longer to heal.

Catastrophic Thinking or PTSD

If people can’t get the pain out of their minds and think it’s the worst thing to ever happen to them, or can’t forget about the accident and were traumatized by it, their recovery will probably take longer.

Do Some People Have an Increased Risk of Whiplash?

Unfortunately, some people are more prone than others to develop whiplash after an accident or other injury.

Risk factors include:

  • Being hit from behind in an auto accident — This makes it likely that your neck will suffer the violent back-and-forth motion that causes whiplash.
  • Being hit when your car is stopped — The sudden forceful motion makes the chance of injury worse.
  • Being a woman — Since women are usually smaller, they are more vulnerable to the effects of violent neck movement.
  • Having a history of neck pain — Pre-existing problems make you more susceptible to injury in this area.

How Long Can Whiplash Last?

So how long do whiplash symptoms last for most people?

The answer is, “It depends.”

Recovery time varies based on several issues, the most important of which is how serious the case of whiplash is. 

Some people find that they feel normal after a few days. But others may take weeks or months to get better. Everyone heals at different rates, and other factors could lead to your pain sticking around for longer.

Regardless of if you’re affected by those factors or not, we know one thing for sure — seeking chiropractic care immediately after an accident will decrease the chance of your symptoms lasting for a long time.

Why Do Whiplash Symptoms Last Longer for Some People?

Unfortunately, some people still have lingering neck pain a year or more after their injury. This is more likely to occur if:

  • Severe pain has been present since the beginning.
  • Pain developed immediately after the accident.
  • Neurological symptoms such as memory loss occurred.
  • Pain radiated outward into the extremities.

Obviously, severe symptoms like this present an even greater reason to get treatment.

Let Cascade Spine & Injury Center Treat Your Auto Injuries

We hope we’ve convinced you that you should seek medical care after a car accident or other injury. And we want that treatment to be with us at Cascade Spine & Injury Center.

Whether you’re experiencing … 

  • Whiplash
  • Back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Headaches; or
  • Shoulder pain

… Cascade Spine & Injury Center is here to guide you through every step of the way.

We are the leading accident and injury chiropractic clinic in Portland. We also offer massage therapy and therapeutic rehabilitation for patients of all ages. If you’re looking for comprehensive, quick, and effective treatments for different types of injuries, you’ve found the right place.

Don’t wait until the pain becomes unbearable. If you’ve been in an auto accident or another situation that may have caused whiplash, contact us today to schedule an appointment and get on the road to recovery.

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