Car accidents are sudden, happening too quickly for the mind and body to react to an oncoming collision. Safety measures like seatbelts and airbags are in place to prevent the worst from happening during a car accident; still, some injuries – such as whiplash – are nearly impossible to avoid.
Whiplash is also known as a neck strain or neck sprain, and can result from sudden movement of the head and neck during an accident. Although whiplash is most commonly seen in car accidents, it can also occur during instances such as physical assaults and sports injuries. Whiplash alone is not a life-changing injury, but it may be accompanied by more serious head and back injuries.
Have You Suffered a Severe Neck Injury?
The Brain Injury Law Center devotes its entire practice to helping survivors of head, neck and spine injuries, and we are here to help. Contact us today at (877) 537-4340 for a free, no obligation consultation to find out how we can help in your physical and financial recovery.
What is Whiplash?
During a car crash, there is no time to think.
While safety restraints protect from projectile movement, the resistance of a seat belt causes the body to suddenly jerk forward and backward. This sudden movement damages muscles and ligaments, affects the structures in the neck and alters the normal curvature of the upper back.
If you’ve been in an accident and walked away feeling relatively unscathed, it does not necessarily mean you haven’t been injured. It’s important to seek medical advice immediately following any accident, whether you feel pain or not. Symptoms may not be immediate and can worsen over time.
If you experience any of the following symptoms following an accident, you could be suffering from whiplash:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Headaches starting at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, or upper back of arms
- Tightness or spasms of the muscles in the neck or upper back
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
Whiplash Diagnosis by a Medical Professional
It’s important that you visit your physician after a car accident for an exam, even if your symptoms are mild. It’s best to diagnose and treat whiplash as early as possible because it may be worse than you realize. When you arrive at your doctor’s office after a whiplash injury, your doctor will most likely perform an exam, testing, and possibly treat your condition with medication.
During the exam, your doctor will observe your posture and neck to check for misalignment or abnormalities. Your doctor may also check different sections of your neck for tightness and mobility. If these tests indicate any nerve damage by abnormal sensations or tingling, your doctor may be able to pinpoint the source of the problem.
Once you complete a physical exam, a treatment plan and diagnostic tests will follow. Physicians may use x-rays to check for fractures and bone damage, while CT scans and MRIs can spot herniated discs, ligament injuries and soft tissue damage.
Treatment for Whiplash
When it comes to treating whiplash, in most cases patients are encouraged to remain as active as possible, since excessive rest can actually exacerbate the problem. Patients who perform a variety of motion exercises have more rapid and successful recovery rates. Immobilization can cause muscle atrophy and weaken the body’s muscles rather than repairing damage. Whiplash treatment generally involves rotational exercises performed for several weeks or months after the accident.
Some doctors will give patients a cervical collar or neck brace to temporarily immobilize the neck while the body is healing. This is typically only used if the patient’s pain level cannot be controlled. Cervical collars should only be used for a limited amount of time or as directed by your physician, since a lack of movement can actually slow down the recovery process.
In order to control pain levels, swelling and muscle spasms, ice and heat should be used intermittently, along with any prescription medications. An active therapy program that allows for spinal manipulation or mobilization can help reset the normal positioning of muscles and joints. Physical therapy can increase circulation and restore range of bodily motion, and occupational therapy can help return a patient to a working environment. If a patient begins to develop certain mental and emotional difficulties after being injured, psychological treatment such as counseling or psychotherapy is recommended.
Serious Whiplash: When the Pain Doesn’t Go Away
It’s not uncommon for more serious issues to arise with the pain of whiplash. If your symptoms last for more than six weeks after an accident, it could indicate a more severe injury. Injuries to the vertebrae joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles and nerves in the neck or upper back are commonly associated with whiplash. In more severe whiplash injuries, treatment options may include injections or even surgery in the case of a spinal cord injury.
What is Chronic Whiplash?
Whiplash that lasts over six months is referred to as chronic whiplash and typically has symptoms that may never completely disappear. If the whiplash injury was severe, it can lead to osteoarthrosis and spinal stenosis, especially if there was an injury to the spine such as a fracture.
Chronic whiplash is treated with prescription painkillers, muscle relaxers and physiotherapy. It may also require time off work and other activities. Alternative treatments include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage and electric nerve stimulation.
Contact the Brain Injury Law Center Today if You’ve Experienced Whiplash
If you have been diagnosed with severe whiplash or an associated injury, it’s important that you seek legal assistance to help protect your rights. An experienced spinal injury attorney can help you decide what to do next.
If you’ve missed time from work to heal from your injury, have incurred medical bills or require more treatment, a monetary settlement can help offset the costs of these. It can also help compensate you for your pain and suffering.
Contact the Brain Injury Law Center today for a risk-free, no-obligation consultation. With a team of dedicated attorneys by your side, you can take the first step towards a strong recovery. Call us today at (757) 244-7000.