Maybe no injury is as misunderstood as whiplash. Many people think whiplash is nothing more than “neck pain,” which should go away after taking a couple aspirin and getting a good night’s sleep. Others don’t even think this is a real injury but something lawyers manufacture.
Our Virginia Beach personal injury lawyers know otherwise. Whiplash is a common and potentially devastating injury that requires close medical attention. Victims can struggle for months—even years—with symptoms that dramatically interfere with their daily lives.
What Is Whiplash?
The human head is uniquely vulnerable. It can move in any direction, but it generally has a limited range. Tip your chin down and then lean your head back. The head doesn’t go very far, does it? The same is true if you lay your head side to side
However, a violent trauma can push the head beyond its normal range. When hit from behind, a person’s head can snap back and forth, giving birth to the name “whiplash.”
Though suggestive, this name doesn’t really tell us anything about the injuries you can suffer due to this violent motion. In most situations, you can injure muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck. This soft tissue gets stretched too far, leading to tears and other damage. Torn ligaments and tendons are very painful, even when at rest. Blood can pool there, putting pressure on nearby nerves.
In extreme accidents, a person can also injury the cervical bones in the neck. They might fracture a bone or damage the pads in between the vertebrae.
Whiplash is a Common Injury
Whiplash can also stem from tripping, falling, or participating in sports. Any hard jolt to the head could also cause whiplash, so someone who has been victimized in a crime could also become injured. Recent research shows that you can injure the tissue in your neck at very slow speeds—as little as 5 miles per hour.
Whiplash Symptoms Might Slowly Emerge
Some injuries are immediately painful. Think of a cracked rib or a broken shin bone coming out of your leg. Other injuries will take a day or two to manifest, and whiplash is one of them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms are neck stiffness, headache, dizziness, pain in the neck and shoulders, and numbness in the arms. Adrenaline can mask the symptoms, which can worsen as blood collects at the site of injury.
If you notice pain or other symptoms following a crash, even a day or two later, go to the hospital. A doctor can review the accident and possibly order tests to arrive at a diagnosis.
Doctors No Longer Immobilize the Neck
Who hasn’t seen a whiplash victim with a big, stiff foam collar that is designed to keep the person’s head from turning? This type of prosthetic might make sense—turning the head is painful, after all. However, doctors are turning away from this type of treatment.
Instead, the trend is to help manage pain and slowly reintroduce movement into the neck. A doctor might prescribe painkillers and/or anti-inflammatories to manage pain and discomfort. You might also receive massage or other physical therapy. The key is to not let neck muscles become stiff from disuse. That will actually prolong your recovery time.
Of course, this does not mean you can jump right back into your old life. Many people experience symptoms for months, which prevent them from working or going to school.
Whiplash Victims Might Need Surgery
Injury to the bones in the neck might require surgery to fully repair them and promote healing. You might also need surgery if you experience chronic pain. Something could be pushing on a nerve, for example, which requires release.
Surgery carries many complications on its own including problems with anesthesia and risk of infection. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
We Fight for Our Clients
Barney Injury Law can help negotiate a settlement to cover the cost of medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call today to schedule a free consultation. We serve Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk, Virginia