Whiplash can occur when your neck is forcefully swung back and forth during, for instance, a motor vehicle accident. A hit from the car behind you can cause this injury which can be a simple sprain that heals in a few weeks, or more serious and chronic.
Many people are unaware of the symptoms that may accompany whiplash. Although they may not appear immediately, within a few days, you may develop stiffness and pain in your neck, headaches, drowsiness or fatigue, pain with movement, a decrease in range-of-motion, pain in the shoulder or upper back, and arm numbness. People with severe and chronic whiplash may be older, have a pre-existing neck injury, or were in a very serious accident.
After the initial examination testing reflexes and range-of-motion in your neck, often, your doctor will refer you for an x-ray and/or an MRI. In such severe cases, you may be prescribed pain medication as well as physical therapy to manage the pain and help you recover. Your doctor will want to know the intensity of your pain, and what, precisely, makes the pain worse. He/She will likely ask you about the accident and want to know how long after the accident your symptoms appeared.
Your treatment plan may include the use of a foam collar to keep your neck in place, exercises, and even lidocaine injections. Hopefully, your case of whiplash will be mild and temporary. However, always get immediate medical treatment in the event your injury results in a more complicated, painful condition.
Should you be left with debilitating whiplash, you may be entitled to compensation. In which case, your personal injury attorney will likely want to see the results of your MRI because an MRI can detect some soft tissue injuries an x-ray cannot. An example of a soft tissue injury from whiplash is a herniated disc, or a tear(s) in the small muscle fibers that support the neck and go down into the shoulder.
Whiplash is a generic term for this type of neck injury. However, the term encompasses everything from a simple strain or sprain to a condition that can adversely affect your life. Like all injuries from accidents, whiplash should not be ignored. If you’ve suffered whiplash, particularly if you were injured in a serious motor vehicle accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible.