The most common injury you can sustain in a car accident is whiplash. Even the slightest fender bender can produce enough force to throw your head forward and injure your neck. Although many people believe that any neck injury caused by a collision is considered whiplash, this isn’t the case. Whiplash is a very distinctive injury that can have varying degrees of severity.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs as a result of the skull being thrown rapidly back and forth from the force of a collision. The term “whiplash” is used to describe the motion of the head and neck—just like a cracking whip, the skull is propelled forward and then immediately drawn back. Unfortunately, your neck and skull were not designed to be as flexible as a length of leather or rope. As a result, the whipping action forces the muscles and ligaments in the neck to overextend. In other words, as the skull propels forward, it pulls the neck muscles with it. Unfortunately, this overextension can sprain and tear muscle tissue and fray tiny ligaments all along the neck, spine, and where the neck muscles attach to the skull.
Common Whiplash Symptoms
Depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms can vary from minor discomfort to excruciating pain. Common signs that you may have sustained whiplash include:
- Neck, head, and arm pain. Similar to a pulled muscle, you may experience discomfort when you attempt to move or twist your neck from side to side. If the injury is severe, you may not be able to move your neck at all without feeling sharp and powerful jolts that radiate from either the base of the skull or top of the spinal cord. Severe injuries can extend across the shoulders and even affect the upper arms.
- Stiffness. As the muscles attempt to knit themselves back together, you may experience stiffness and swelling from the base of the skull down through the neck and out over the shoulders.
- Fatigue and dizziness. Pain can quickly take a toll on your senses. Discomfort and the inability to move your neck can also cause instability and decreased depth perception, all of which can aid in producing dizzy spells and the need to rest.
In addition to pain and discomfort, whiplash can have severe repercussions that could potentially last for months or years. These complications include:
- Chronic pain. Most whiplash victims recover within a few weeks, but severe tears can take months of throbbing and stabbing pain to heal fully. Even then, there’s no guarantee that your pain will stop completely. Just like a broken bone, a torn muscle will never be as strong or flexible as it was before the injury.
- Depression. Chronic pain has been known to induce depression and anxiety. In addition to the pain itself, consistent discomfort can limit activity and social interaction, causing you to withdraw from the world.
- Permanent muscle deformity. During recovery, if a torn muscle shortens as it heals, it can cause your neck to tilt. If this lean isn’t addressed, the muscles can stiffen and permanently prevent you from straightening your posture.
Treatment for whiplash is pretty straightforward and includes:
- Diagnosis and imaging. The first step your physician will take will be to verify your condition. He’ll record your symptoms, order an x-ray to rule out any additional damage, and provide a diagnosis.
- Pain management. Most minor cases of whiplash only require pain medication and heat to relax the muscles and manage discomfort. Over time, the muscles will repair themselves without further treatment.
- Muscle relaxing medication. More severe overextension cases require the help of prescription muscle relaxers to combat stiffness and discomfort. If you’re unable to move your head, or can only do so with extreme pain, your doctor can prescribe medication that will help release the stiffness and calm your nerves.
- Physical therapy or chiropractic care. Whether severe or not, physical therapy is essential for your recovery. Although the injury resulted from overextension of the muscles, slow stretching and mobility exercises can encourage your muscles to heal and prevent atrophy and stiffness. A chiropractor can also help loosen muscles and realign out-of-joint vertebrae to speed your recovery and ease discomfort.
Getting Your Head in the Game by Pursuing an Injury Claim
Although treatment may be straightforward, it isn’t cheap. The initial examination can cost upwards of $2,000 for imaging and scans alone. You then have to factor in medication costs and therapy session fees. All in all, a minor case of whiplash can seriously do a number on your pocketbook, and all because of someone else rear-ending you.
Contact GriffithLaw today for a FREE, no-obligation evaluation of your whiplash injury claim. Attorney John Griffith not only knows his way around collision claims, but he also used to be an insurance adjuster. Therefore, he knows all the tricks and distractions big insurance companies use to cheat you out of a fair settlement. Call, visit, or contact our Franklin, TN, office today and see how we can help you.