Whiplash is a common injury that happens to someone’s neck following a sudden deceleration-acceleration force that causes rapid, unrestrained backward, and forward movement of the neck and head. Whiplash injuries are most common sustained in car accidents and describe damage to both the soft tissues and the bone structures. Fortunately, whiplash is generally not a life-threatening injury, but it may lead to a prolonged period of partial disability. There are significant economic expenses related to whiplash that can cost $30 billion in the U.S. each year, including lost productivity, loss of income, medical expenses or treatments, disability, and pain and suffering.
What is a Whiplash Injury?
Whiplash is most commonly caused in a car accident in which the person is in a stopped car and is struck behind by another vehicle. It is commonly believed that the impact causes the neck and head to be forced into a backward position as the seat pushes the individual’s torso forward, thus causing the unrestrained neck and head to fall backwards. After a short delay, the neck and head then recover and they are thrown into a forward position. These quick motions cause the spine to take on an abnormal “S” shape, resulting in damage to the soft tissues, muscles, and ligaments that hold the cervical vertebrae together.
What are the Symptoms of a Whiplash Injury?
Although the extent to which a person experiences whiplash will vary depending on the rate at which the offender was traveling as well as the position of the victim inside the car, several of the most common symptoms that may indicate a whiplash injury include:
- Shoulder stiffness and pain
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Arm pain and weakness
- Jaw pain
- Visual disturbances
- Back pain
- Ringing in the ears
In more severe cases of whiplash-associated disorder, an individual may suffer from stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and drug dependency. In fact, patients who are experiencing serious whiplash complications may find themselves in isolation as they withdraw from their social groups.
Although most people recover quickly from motor vehicle accidents without any chronic symptoms, some continue to experience the pain and discomfort from whiplash for several years after the injury. Treatment depends on the symptoms that are present, but most therapies have not yet been adequately tested to determine their effectiveness. However, patients may benefit from immobilization and rest as these have been shown to have the greatest chances of relieving chronic symptoms, explained by a loss of the range of motion that often leads to increased stiffness and pain.
While physical therapy may be useful in helping the patient to reduce painful motions and strengthen muscles, occupational therapy can also be used to help the patient return to the workplace. However, if a patient begins to develop severe psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or anger following a whiplash injury, it is often recommended that the patient seek prompt treatment of the emotional condition.
If you or a loved one is a victim of a whiplash injury, we encourage you to contact a personal injury lawyer. The Fernandez Firm stands ready to help you get answers and compensation for the injuries you have suffered. Call us today at (800) 222-8163 and see how we can help you.