Whiplash vs. Concussion: Differences Explained

Both whiplash and concussion are types of injuries you can get in a variety of contexts, including car accidents and sports accidents. A sudden and forceful trauma to the head, neck, and upper body can result in a serious injury that requires medical attention. In some cases, you may not be able to tell whether you are dealing with whiplash or concussion. Doctors have the tools and expertise to differentiate between whiplash vs. concussion injuries and provide you with the necessary treatment accordingly. Whether you were injured in a car accident or while playing your favorite sport, here are the differences between whiplash and a concussion.

What Is a Whiplash Injury, and What Does It Feel Like?

Whiplash vs. Concussion

A whiplash injury occurs when a sudden, forceful movement causes the head and neck to jolt violently back and forth. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries from car accidents, especially in rear-end collisions or fender-benders. The sudden trauma can cause the muscles of the neck to stretch and strain out of their normal range of motion, resulting in strained or torn muscles. Damage to nearby nerves, blood vessels, and the spine in the neck may also occur.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Whiplash can cause a wide variety of symptoms. These symptoms are often described as delayed symptoms because it can take hours or even days for whiplash symptoms to fully set in. The most common symptoms include pain and tenderness in the neck. Pain and discomfort may increase with certain head and neck movements. You may also experience a reduced range of motion in the neck. Stiffness, soreness, and headaches, along with tingling and numbness in the shoulders and arms, can also occur with whiplash.

What Is a Concussion, and What Does It Feel Like?

A concussion injury occurs when you suffer a blow to the head or the head is violently shaken. A traumatic event can cause the brain to move around inside the skull and potentially cause damage to brain cells and tissue. Rapid acceleration or deceleration during a car accident or a direct blow to the head while playing a sport can result in a concussion. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is typically graded as mild, moderate, or severe.

Symptoms of a Concussion

A concussion can cause a wide range of symptoms that affect you physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Physical symptoms of a concussion can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. You may also experience dizziness, disorientation, and blurred vision. A concussion may also result in temporary sensitivity to light and sound. Cognitive symptoms of a concussion can include difficulty communicating or remembering events. A concussion can also cause symptoms like irritability and changes in mood or behavior.

Similarities of Whiplash & Concussion

Injuries like whiplash and concussions that involves the head, neck, and spine can share quite a few similarities, including common causes, similar symptoms, and the need for prompt medical attention.

Common Causes

Both whiplash and concussions can be caused by a sudden, forceful movement of the head, neck, or upper body. Common causes of both whiplash and concussion include car accidents and sports injuries.

Similar Symptoms

Whiplash and concussion injuries can present with similar symptoms, including head and neck pain. Symptoms for both whiplash and concussion injuries can take time to fully appear, so it is important to monitor any changes or new symptoms that may appear in the hours or even days after a traumatic event.

Medical Attention

Injuries to the head and neck should always get checked out by a medical professional. Potential damage to the brain or spine must be taken seriously to rule out severe injury or complications.

Finding the Difference Between Whiplash & Concussion

Finding the Difference Between Whiplash & Concussion

While you might think of a concussion as a head injury and whiplash as a neck injury, the differences are even more complex than that. The location of the injury, where you experience the symptoms, and the type of recovery will vary depending on whether you have a whiplash or concussion injury.

Location of Injury

A direct blow to the head is typically associated with a concussion, while the severe jostling or shaking of the head, neck, and upper body is more associated with a whiplash injury. A concussion will primarily impact the head and brain, while whiplash can cause damage to the neck, spine, shoulders, and upper body.

Location of Symptoms

Symptoms of both whiplash and concussion injuries can occur elsewhere in the body, not just in the head and neck. In fact, the location of symptoms can also provide your doctor with important insight into the type of injury you may have. Pain and tingling that extends into the arms and hands may signal a herniated disc or pinched nerve in the neck from a whiplash injury while ringing in the ears or double vision may be more common with a concussion.

Varying Recovery Times

Whiplash and concussion injuries may also have varying recovery times. While both injuries can have long-term effects, recovery from whiplash can often take less time than recovery from a concussion.

Diagnosis & Treatment Methods

The diagnosis and treatment methods for whiplash and concussion can also differ. Whiplash is typically diagnosed through a physical examination and imaging, while diagnosing a concussion may also involve cognitive and neurological tests. The best treatment for your specific injury will involve addressing your symptoms as well as the root cause.

Start Whiplash & Concussion Treatment at Affordable Chiropractic Killeen

Visit your trusted chiropractor at Affordable Chiropractic Killeen to get started today with quality treatment and care for injuries, including whiplash and concussion. Prompt medical attention will require time and attention so you can experience lasting relief from your injury and return to your regular routines and activities.