Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

Some time ago, I was riding as a passenger in my friend's car when we had an accident. The air bags went off but not before I got a good whiplash injury. I'm not better yet, and it's been months. How much longer is this going to take to heal?

Answer:

Your course of recovery with symptoms that haven't gone away suggest that you may have a chronic pain condition. The early period of recovery is called the acute phase (first six to eight weeks). Most of the injury to the soft tissue has gone through the inflammation-healing process during the acute phase.

Whiplash that results in chronic painful symptoms may be referred to as whiplash-associated disorder (WAD). Patients in both the acute and chronic stages of whiplash often wonder what will be their course of recovery? In other words, will the symptoms go away? And how long will it take?

Studies on whiplash and WAD have found that there are some predictive factors. When present, these factors are linked with delayed recovery. For example, women seem to have a longer recovery period and are more likely to have less complete recovery compared with men.

Overall, children recover the fastest. Recovery is slower for people who have severe symptoms or who seek health care early on. Psychologic factors such as postinjury distress and passive types of coping are also linked with poor recovery.

The speed of recovery after whiplash injuries is not well understood. Differences in attitudes and beliefs may help explain the variation observed. Feelings of helplessness, anxiety, or fear of movement are common in chronic conditions.

Chronic neck pain may have many factors leading to this problem. It often requires a multidisciplinary approach. You may be able to make better progress with psychologic counseling or behavioral therapy than with medical care. If you have not seen a doctor, it might be a good idea to do so. An accurate diagnosis can help guide your treatment and successful recovery. Linda J. Carroll, PhD, et al. Course and Prognostic Factors for Neck Pain in Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD). In Supplement to Spine February 15, 2008. Vol 33. No. 4S. Pp. 83-92.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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