Whiplash is the most common type of soft tissue injury. It occurs most often to drivers and passengers involved in rear-end collisions. The force of the impact causes the head to snap violently backward and forward.
The term "whiplash" has a negative connotation for some. The injury is more commonly referred to now as a cervical sprain or neck sprain, a cervical strain or neck strain, or a hyperextension injury.
No matter its name, a crash doesn't need to happen at high speed for a whiplash injury to result. Even at low speeds, the unexpected impact can cause injury to vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments in the neck.
While whiplash injuries most often result from car accidents, they can occur anytime there is a sudden back and forth "whipping" movement of the neck. It could happen with a slip and fall accident, a blow to the head from an assault, or when participating in sports.
Consequences of Whiplash
Whiplash injuries aren't always immediately recognizable. The rush of adrenaline that occurs after an accident may not allow you to relax for some time. Over the course of the several days after the accident, you might experience:
- Tightness and stiffness in the neck
- Neck pain (dull and aching, rather than sharp) or back pain
- Problems with balance and equilibrium
- Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
If you were involved in an automobile accident, take these symptoms seriously. Get medical attention. If you retained a personal injury attorney, they will most likely refer you to a medical specialist for treatment — an orthopedic doctor, a back and neck expert, a chiropractor, or a neurologist.
Treatment can include:
- Immobilizing the neck with a neck brace or cervical collar
- Physical therapy
- Muscle relaxants
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Massage therapy.
If muscle or ligament damage is extensive, cervical traction and even surgery may be necessary. The recovery period from a whiplash injury varies greatly. For some, it can take as little as two to three weeks. More serious cases can last for a year or more. In rare instances, severe whiplash can become a chronic pain condition that may last for decades.
How to Deal with a Whiplash Injury
Whiplash injuries may seem minor at first, but if left untreated whiplash injuries can result in chronic pain. Whiplash can also make a person more susceptible to future back and neck injuries.
Seek medical advice if you were involved in an accident and have any of the symptoms above. The information on FindLaw is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
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