Most people are familiar with whiplash. In fact, more than two million Americans will experience whiplash-type injuries every year. Whiplash is a neck strain or sprain that results when the head is suddenly snapped forward and backward in a whip-like motion. The unnatural movement of the head overstretches the muscles, ligaments and joints in the neck and upper back.

While an incredibly prevalent injury, there are still many misconceptions about whiplash injuries. Below are four things you may not have known about whiplash:

1. It doesn’t require much force to get whiplash

After a minor fender-bender, many people wrongly assume that they don’t need to seek medical attention if they feel okay. But the symptoms of whiplash are commonly delayed, and research has shown whiplash-type injuries can occur at speeds as low as 5 mph. Whether your pain starts immediately or day or weeks later, you mustn’t ignore it.

2. You don’t have to be in a car accident to get whiplash

Whiplash-type injuries are commonly associated with rear-end auto accidents. However, you don’t have to be in a collision to sustain a severe whiplash injury. Some of the more common activities that may cause whiplash outside of the car include:

  • Contact sports such as football or boxing
  • Horseback riding
  • Amusement park rides
  • Physical abuse
  • Other traumas such as a fall

3. Some people are more likely to get whiplash than others

It may surprise you to learn that some individuals at more at risk of whiplash injuries than others. According to research, you may be more prone to suffering from whiplash after an accident if:

  • You are in a rear-end collision
  • You are a woman
  • You are younger or a child
  • You have a history of neck pain
  • You work at a desk job
  • You have experienced whiplash before

4. It isn’t always a short-lived injury

Most people are fortunate enough to have their whiplash resolve on its own in a matter of weeks. However, not everyone is as lucky. Research estimates that between 12% and 50% of whiplash-sufferers will have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications a year after their accident. For this reason, it’s critical that you receive a medical evaluation immediately after you sustain your injuries to determine their severity.

Whiplash may not seem serious, but it can lead to months or even years of pain and limited mobility. If you are in an auto accident, be sure to have your injuries evaluated by your doctor right away to avoid worsening your condition.