woman holding her neck due to whiplash injury

Whiplash – How it Happens and How to Care for It

Whiplash is one of the most common types of car accident injuries. Millions of whiplash injuries happen in the U.S. each year, and as many as 30-50% of those injured will struggle with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. If you or someone you love has suffered a neck injury, it’s vital that you understand how whiplash happens and what you can expect as you recover from this devastating event.

How Whiplash Happens

Most whiplash injuries occur when a person is rear-ended in an auto accident, but they can also happen with sports injuries and dangerous slips and falls. The most common sequence of a car crash whiplash injury is as follows:

  • Your car is struck from behind. The driver and passenger seats in your vehicle get forcefully pushed against the spinal column, which forces the spinal column up into the cervical spine.
  • Your torso moves forward while your spine remains stationary. As the body’s torso is pushed away from the car seat towards the front of the vehicle, the head remains in place. The creates an unnatural s-curve in the cervical spine, which can compress joints, discs, and other parts of the neck.
  • Your head hits the seat. As the torso moves in a forward motion, the head accelerates violently back into the seat. This can lead to additional soft tissue injuries in the neck.
  • The head bounces off of the seat. There is a secondary bounce as the head is thrust forward violently. The seatbelt, while a lifesaving device, can add to the injury as it holds the torso in place while the head whips forward, causing whiplash.

The Symptoms of Whiplash

A common misconception about whiplash injuries is that they only result from high-speed crashes. This isn’t the case. Even a low-speed rear-end collision can cause a life-altering whiplash injury to the driver and their passengers. While your car might be designed to sustain certain impact forces, the human body is not. Symptoms of whiplash can vary, but the most common signs of whiplash include:

  • Neck and upper back pain
  • Spasms and tightness in the neck and upper back muscles
  • Headache, dizziness, and pain with neck movement
  • Shoulder pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Burning, tingling, or other abnormal sensations in the neck
  • Concentration and memory problems

These symptoms, including neck pain, could begin immediately after the accident or may not start for days or weeks later. The adrenaline released during a traumatic accident can leave victims believing that they are unharmed when the reality is something different.

Diagnosing and Treating Whiplash

Whether you are unsure about a whiplash injury or just have mild neck pain, you should be examined by a physician as soon as possible. Tests such as X-rays, an MRI, or CT scan may be done to rule out fractures, ligament injury, and herniated discs.

Most whiplash injuries are conservatively treated with a combination of rest, medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic manipulation. More severe cases of whiplash may require additional treatment that includes trigger point injections and even an evaluation with a spinal surgeon.

How Whiplash Can Impact Your Life

The Journal of Chiropractic Medicine reports that whiplash injuries alone cost about $2.7 billion each year. What this enormous figure doesn’t illustrate clearly enough is the personal cost to whiplash victims and their families.

With the right treatment, about half of the people who suffer from whiplash can fully recover in just a few weeks or months. Others may require additional medical care and time away from work. In some cases, there is permanent damage, a need for surgery, and a significant impact on quality of life. If your whiplash injury was the fault of another party, seeking fair compensation for your losses is important.

Get Help With a Whiplash Personal Injury Claim

If you or a loved one are suffering from a whiplash injury resulting from a car accident or other incident, you have the right to seek fair compensation if another party was responsible for your injuries. The experienced personal injury attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP will offer a free evaluation of your case and will clearly explain your legal options. Contact our Montgomery, Alabama office now at 334.262.1911 or online to schedule a consultation.