How Long Should You Stay Off Work With Whiplash?

One of the most common injuries to occur in a car accident is whiplash, an injury that can be extremely painful. A whiplash diagnosis could mean you are unable to work until your injury heals. Treatment of whiplash is usually a combination of physical therapy using techniques like immobilization and neck-specific exercise.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is caused when your neck moves back and forth quickly, similar to the cracking of a whip. This injury can cause damage to the soft tissues of your neck. The injury may be to the muscles, ligaments, discs, or nerves in your neck, or it may be a combination of several different soft tissues.

Research indicates that young women whose necks are more flexible and have less muscle are more prone to whiplash, as well as the elderly who may have some arthritis of the neck.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

Your doctor may use x-rays to rule out injuries to the bone, but they will not show any soft tissue damage. Other diagnostic tools, such as MRI and CT scans, also do not show whiplash injuries. Your doctor will more than likely diagnose whiplash by examining the neck and reviewing the symptoms you report. Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain

Recovering from Whiplash

Recovery from whiplash depends on how severe the whiplash injury is. Mild cases may resolve on their own in just a few days, but it could also take a few weeks. It is actually possible that a mild case of whiplash will not cause pain until several hours or even the day after an accident.

A moderate case of whiplash will cause pain immediately, with recovery taking weeks to months. If the whiplash is severe, recovery could take months. Every person is different, however, and it may take longer than someone else to recover from whiplash.

Returning to Work

If you are diagnosed with a mild case of whiplash, your doctor may tell you to continue with normal activities, including work. If the whiplash is moderate or severe, your doctor may keep you out of work for a short period. Most people with moderate whiplash may return to work in a few weeks, while half of them return to work within a month, even if they are not fully recovered.

Severe whiplash may take several months to a year for you to return to normal activity. There are cases where even mild to moderate whiplash sufferers have difficulty returning to work quickly. For mild whiplash, there is some evidence returning to work may actually improve the injury. However, if you are suffering from severe pain after returning to work, you will want to talk to your doctor to see if you have returned too soon.

Legal Aspects of Car Accident Injuries

Whiplash can be a debilitating injury, and you may be eligible for compensation because of that injury. Because it is difficult to prove that someone is still suffering significant pain from whiplash, insurance companies may hesitate to pay your claim.

To gain further understanding of the legal aspects of car accidents, check out this infographic provided by John Foy. The fact is, if you have suffered an injury like whiplash and your doctor confirms this injury, you may be able to seek a personal injury claim.

The most important thing to do during your recovery is to take care of yourself and follow your doctor’s orders. You may be eager to return to work or even afraid you’ll lose your job, but you could lose your health if you push yourself too hard.

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