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What Exactly is Whiplash

By Viles Beckman | May 23, 2019

Being involved in a car accident is both scary and stressful — and after sustaining an injury you’re probably filled with worry about your health. While whiplash may be a common auto accident injury, that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Here’s what you need to know about whiplash and car accidents.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a common injury after a car accident that most often affects the neck. Whiplash occurs when the neck is rapidly forced to move back-and-forth. In many cases, a rear-end car crash can cause a person to sustain whiplash.

Why Whiplash is Dangerous

what is whiplash - car accident injury attorney - fort myersWhiplash injuries can be both painful and debilitating and the danger of whiplash is that sometimes symptoms don’t occur until days or weeks after the accident.

Whiplash is a potentially serious neck injury that is commonly combined with other head injuries, like a serious TBI, since the head whips forward and often hits the steering wheel; or it is possible to suffer a coup contrecoupe injury.

A whiplash injury is usually sustained during rear-end collisions but can occur in other types of auto accidents. It’s important to understand that whiplash can be a serious injury, so you should seek medical help immediately. Then contact a personal injury attorney who has experience with whiplash injuries, like Viles & Beckman, LLC.

While many people can recover from whiplash quickly and can be back on their feet within a few weeks, there are some complications that can cause months or even years of pain after an accident.

Common Symptoms from a Serious Whiplash Injury

Chronic whiplash symptoms may include:

  • Severe neck pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain in the arms
  • Stiffness in the back or neck
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision or seeing dots
  • Being tired a lot
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Tinnitus
  • Memory issues

Are some people more at risk for whiplash?

In general, the better physical condition you are in, the lesser your chances of getting severe whiplash; your body is simply better at stabilizing itself when you are young and fit. You may be more at risk for whiplash complications if you:

  • if you have had whiplash before
  • if you are older in age
  • if you already have back problems, lower back pain, or neck pain
  • if you have arthritis
  • if your physical condition is poor
  • if the impact catches you completely by surprise
  • if you are female

Elderly Adults Can Suffer More Severe Whiplash

Typically, older people have a higher risk of experiencing more serious whiplash than a younger person might.This is because the the movement in their neck and back is much more limited, their muscles are less flexible, they have less strength in those areas, they may have arthritis, and their discs and ligaments are not as pliable as they once were. Basically, they are less flexible and thus more fragile, causing a whiplash injury to affect them more severely.

Symptoms of Whiplash

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following signs or symptoms may develop as soon as 24 hours after your car accident, all the way to potentially weeks after:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Pain worsens with neck movement
  • Decreased range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches that start in the base of the skull
  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder, upper back, or arms
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

Diagnosing Whiplash after an Auto Accident

In order to understand how severe your whiplash is, your doctor will ask you questions aiming at understanding your symptoms and you potential risk (i.e. a past neck injury).

During this process, the doctor will also conduct an examination where they will move around your head, neck, and arms. This will help them to diagnose your whiplash by examining your range of motion in your neck, the degree of motion that causes you pain, the amount of tenderness in your neck, and how well you reflexes and strength are.

Using Imaging to Diagnose Whiplash

Imaging tests often don’t show whiplash, since it is characterized by a series of tiny tears and stretches that all combine to create the pain. However, imaging can help to rule out other causes and could potentially show other indications of whiplash. Diagnostic imaging include: x-rays, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI scans are specifically efficient at detecting soft tissue injuries, like damage to ligaments.

Treating Whiplash after a Car Accident

Whiplash will generally heal with time by itself. But severe whiplash will definitely require that a healthcare provider assists the process. This helps to control pain, help restore normal range of motion in your neck, and get you back to living your normal life.

Whiplash is often treated with:

  • Rest
  • Heat therapy or cold compresses
  • Over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen
  • Prescription medications, like pain medications
  • Muscle relaxants, the help reduce muscle spasms
  • Medicated injections, like lidocaine that numb the area
  • Slowly increasing exercise
  • Range of motion exercises that help restore movement
  • Physical therapy
  • Foam collars
  • Chiropractic and massage treatment

What You Should Do After Sustaining Whiplash From a Car Accident

First and foremost, whether you experience any of the above symptoms or not after a car accident, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately to err on the side of caution. If your accident was caused by the negligence of another driver, you may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering of your injuries.

To learn more about your right to file a personal injury claim, Contact Viles & Beckman, LLC today at (239) 334-3933. Our experienced attorneys are ready to answer all your questions and ease your concerns so you can concentrate on healing from your injuries.

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