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The impact of a car crash can cause your neck to violently swing back in a forth in a way that looks and feels entirely unnatural. When your neck moves forcefully enough, you may end up with whiplash, a genuine neck injury.

How can you tell the difference between a stiff neck and an injury? These are the most common signs and symptoms of whiplash.

1. Neck Pain

The first signs of whiplash appear within 24 hours of your accident or injury. One of the most common symptoms is neck pain (or neck stiffness). 

Neck pain is a vague term, but the pain is unlike a crick in your neck. Because it is an injury to the soft tissue, it will feel more like a sprain. You might recognize the feeling if you ever sprained a wrist or an ankle.

2. Loss of Range of Motion and Difficult Movement

A classic sign of whiplash is the loss of range of motion. If you turn your neck to the right, you get pain in the right side of the neck and vice versa.

If the soreness or pain intensifies when you look left to right or up or down, then you may have whiplash.

Is moving your head incredibly painful? See your doctor immediately for a check-up to ensure your injury doesn’t extend past whiplash.

3. Headaches

The damage to your neck may also cause headaches. These differ from migraines or sinus headaches and have a distinct neurological and physiological cause.

If you have a whiplash-induced headache, then the pain likely starts at the base of your skull (top of your spine). When you have whiplash, you have an injury to your cervical facet joints, which inflames and irritates the nerves in your spinal cord and your brain stem. The nerve damage is what causes the headache.

Applying heat to the back of your neck can ease the headache, but you still need an exam to identify the extent of any nerve damage.

4. Tingling in the Arms

Injuries to the muscles in your neck can cause the nerve roots in your spine to become inflamed or compressed. When your nerve roots are out of place, they can impact your shoulders and arms.

The most common signs of whiplash-related nerve issues include tingling in your arms. However, it can also escalate to numbness or weakness, ranging from your shoulder down into your fingers.

If you experience tingling, numbness, or weakness in your shoulders or arms, then see your doctor immediately. You’ll need a CT or MRI to assess any damage to your spinal cord or nerves.

Do You Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Whiplash?

Whiplash is a very real injury, and it is distinguishable from a stiff or sore neck.

A stiff neck, loss of range of motion, headaches, and tingling are the most common signs and symptoms of whiplash.

Did you receive a whiplash diagnosis in the ER and get told to go home and rest? Around 40 percent of people who experience whiplash will struggle with persistent pain even after diagnosis and rest. Get in touch for a consultation to learn how we can help you recover more fully.