Understanding Whiplash

By November 20, 2014Auto Accidents

A driver sits in his car at a red light waiting for the signal to change, when suddenly his vehicle is struck from behind by another vehicle. The force of the collision is so strong the driver of the first vehicle is jerked backward and then forward in a violent way. After the automobile accident, the driver of the first vehicle emerges from his car with pain and stiffness in his neck. He is experiencing the very first signs of whiplash.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is an injury to the neck often resulting from a rear-end automobile accident or other trauma to the neck. Whiplash will often occur when there is any kind of forceful impact, causing the head to jerk backward and then forward. It is said that the term “whiplash” is actually derived from the word whip, in the sense that a person’s head is forced backward and forward in the same motion as the cracking of a whip.

The symptoms of whiplash can range from very severe to very mild, depending on the nature of the event causing the injury. It is very common for whiplash victims to first opt for over the counter pain relievers to address their symptoms of neck pain and stiffness. If pain continues beyond a few weeks, patients often find prescription medications and physical therapy helpful.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Most people experience neck pain and stiffness, headaches at the base of the skull, dizziness, memory problems, ringing in the ears, problems sleeping, and general irritability as a result of whiplash. While these symptoms may dissipate within a short period of time, it is highly recommended that the victim see a physician if:

  1. The pain spreads to the arms and/or shoulders
  2. Moving the head is painful
  3. Numbness or tingling is felt and/or there is a feeling of weakness in the arms

What Causes Whiplash?

The most common cause of whiplash is automobile accidents, particularly those involving a rear-end collision. Another circumstance that often gives rise to whiplash is physical abuse. When a person is punched or is shaken, whiplash is often among the resulting injuries. Whiplash is very often caused when a baby is excessively shaken; this is called “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” Another type of activity that can cause whiplash is contact sports. Sports, such as football, involving forceful tackling and collisions of bodies, can frequently cause whiplash.

Who Is Most Vulnerable to Whiplash?

Because whiplash involves a trauma to the neck, women tend to suffer injury more easily and more often than men because a female’s neck is less strong than that of a male. However, because men engage in activities such as contact sports more frequently than women, they too suffer their share of whiplash cases.

Diagnostic Testing for Whiplash

Although diagnostic tests are routinely conducted after an injury to the neck has been sustained, it is very common for tests to show no injury even when the victim is experiencing pain. Such tests include X-rays, CT scans, and MRI examinations.

Treatment for Whiplash

While treatment for whiplash will usually involve prescription medication for pain, injections and muscle relaxants may also be used, if necessary, to relieve muscle spasms. Therapeutic use of ice and heat is also helpful to help facilitate healing of the neck injury. Additional types of therapy include manual therapy, including myofascial release, ultrasound, and stretching and strengthening exercises. When using ice and heat, the best results are usually achieved where ice is applied immediately after the injury has occurred to reduce inflammation, whereas heat will help immediately prior to physical therapy to relax the muscles. As the pain dissipates, stretching exercises will help to restore the full range of motion to the neck.

Contact Us

If you have a whiplash injury from an automobile accident, contact the attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe today. The attorneys at our firm are ready to protect your legal interests and to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. Call today or fill out our contact form and we will contact you to arrange for a free consultation.

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