Whiplash is a colloquial term used to describe distortion injuries of the neck. The medical phrase is known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) and the term whiplash associated disorders (WAD) is used describe the symptoms that are associated. Whiplash injury is common from motor vehicle accidents. Especially for a driver that was struck from behind. However, there are other ways for a person to sustain whiplash injury, as well.
The total number of reports of whiplash injury in the US is about half a million. Whiplash injury is usually not a life threatening injury but can lead to prolonged disability. Whiplash injury is a significant economic expense, costing people $30 billion a year for medical care, disability, time off work, and litigation.
What Causes Whiplash Injury?
Whiplash injury usually occurs as a result of the torso moving forward quickly causing the head and neck to be thrown back and then forward. This quick motion causes hyperflexion and hyperextension in the neck muscles that leads to muscle soreness and sometimes alignment problems in the neck, or cervical, bones. Most of the time, the problem from whiplash injury is pulled muscles in the neck.
Symptoms of Whiplash Injury
There are a series of symptoms associated with whiplash injury. While people usually recover from whiplash injury relatively quickly, sometimes the symptoms can last for up to years. The symptoms from whiplash injury are usually also treated very fairly easily. There can be psychological effects as well as physical effects from whiplash injury.
Physical symptoms of whiplash injury:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Shoulder pain or stiffness
- Jaw pain
- Arm pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Back pain
Psychological symptoms from whiplash injury:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Drug dependency
- Sleep disturbance (insomnia)
Diagnosis of Whiplash Injury
After a motor vehicle accident, the patient will likely be taken to a hospital or doctor’s office for examination. The doctors will examine the patient for any injuries, including whiplash injury, and determine if the patient requires treatment. If a patient is determined to have a whiplash injury, the doctors may provide them with a neck brace for temporary support for the whiplash injury.
X-rays of the patient will also be taken to check for more injuries additional to the whiplash injury. The patient will be safe at that point if there are no major injuries to the head, neck or the rest of their body that require immediate treatment. If the x-rays are normal but the patient continues having problems, they will be consulted again after about a week.
Dynamic x-rays of the patient may also be taken to examine the neck in a forward and backward position, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These types of examinations are more likely to detect any whiplash injury to the soft tissues in the neck.
Treatment for Whiplash Injury
The treatment for whiplash injury depends on the variety of symptoms that are present. Although most treatments for whiplash injury have not been tested to determine their effectiveness, there are many that work to relieve the patient’s symptoms.
The most important aspect of managing whiplash injury is to provide optimal education to the patient. This would include information on the causes, treatments, and outcomes of the treatments. Patients should understand that whiplash injury is a real condition and that most patients can fully recover. Patients that do not receive information on managing whiplash injury are more likely to develop chronic whiplash injury symptoms.
Many times, the initial treatment for whiplash injury is to provide the patient with a cervical collar. The main point of the collar is to reduce the range of motion for the neck to prevent any additional whiplash injury. This is only effective during the initial phase and studies have shown that prolonged immobilization can actually slow the healing process.
Orlando Whiplash Injury Attorneys
Patients that perform range of motion exercises early in their treatment are shown to exhibit a more reliable and rapid improvement in symptoms from whiplash injury. This usually involves rotational exercises being performed 10 times every hour once the initial phase of the whiplash injury has subsided. Physical therapy is also an effective treatment for whiplash injury after the initial phase of the condition. If you or a loved one has been injured in a whiplash injury from a car accident, contact the attorneys here at Paul & Perkins here today.
Eck, Jason, and Shiel William. “Whiplash.” Medicine Net. N.p., 04 Jan 2008. Web. 13 Sep 2013. <http://www.medicinenet.com/whiplash/page4.htm>.
Murphy, Donald. “Factors Affecting the Whiplash Injury.”Spine Health. N.p.. Web. 13 Sep 2013. <http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/factors-affecting-whiplash-injury>.