Why Whiplash Is a More Serious Injury Than You Think

Why Whiplash Is a More Serious Injury Than You ThinkWhiplash injuries are often caused by vehicle accidents – mostly, rear end-collisions. The good news is that most whiplash injuries are not fatal. The bad news is that they do require medical care. Most car accident victims who have whiplash suffer with severe neck pain. The pain can affect your ability to work, enjoy your family, and perform simple tasks such as eating and sleeping. Many whiplash victims require treatment for weeks or even months. Some victims may live with chronic pain.

You need experienced Vancouver and Battle Ground lawyers on your side to obtain the compensation you deserve for whiplash injuries. Many insurance companies try to argue whiplash is a minor injury – when it is definitely not. At Philbrook Law Office, we work with your doctors and our own network of physicians when necessary to show just how severe your whiplash injury is, the medical help you need, and all the ways your injury is making your life difficult.

What is whiplash?

The prestigious Mayo Clinic defines whiplash as a “neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.” The quick back-and-forth movements can damage bones in the spine, discs, ligaments, nerves, muscles, and other parts of the neck.

How does whiplash happen?

The most common cause of whiplash is a rear-end car accident or truck accident. Whiplash injuries may also be caused by falls, construction work, assaults, and other causes. Many victims don’t even realize they have whiplash for several days after an accident. If you are in a car accident, it is wise to be examined at a local emergency room as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel injured. The doctors there will help you determine if a whiplash injury has occurred. For example, ER staff can determine whether you have any broken bones that could also complicate your recovery from whiplash.

What are the signs you have whiplash?

Some of the signs you may have whiplash include the appearance of one or more of the following symptoms within a few hours or days of the accident:

  • Neck pain and neck stiffness
  • A loss of neck range and motion
  • Pain when you move your neck
  • Headaches that often begin at the base of the skull
  • Tingling in the arms or numbness in the arms
  • Upper back pain, shoulder pain, or arm pain
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

Whiplash victims may also have tinnitus, blurred vision, difficulty sleeping, memory problems, irritability, or depression.

How is whiplash diagnosed?

The ER doctor or your general physician will conduct an oral examination to understand the severity of your symptoms. The exam will focus on how the accident occurred and how well you can perform daily activities. The doctor will examine the range of motion of your shoulders and neck, the degree of motion that causes pain or a jump in the amount of pain, tenderness in your neck and back, your reflexes, and the strength of your limbs.

Imaging tests are generally used to determine if you have other problems, as these types of tests cannot show if you have whiplash. Common imaging tests for whiplash-associated injuries include X-rays, CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These tests look for fractures, dislocations, arthritis, soft tissue injuries, and damage to the spinal cord.

What are the complications of whiplash?

While many people do recover from their injuries without long-term effects within a few weeks, some whiplash victims may develop chronic pain. The more severe your pain, movement limitations, and arm pain after the accident, the more likely you are to suffer from chronic whiplash pain. The risk for chronic whiplash pain increases if you have a prior whiplash diagnosis, are older, had other neck or back pain, or the car accident was a high-speed or high-impact accident.

What are common treatments for whiplash from car accidents?

The treatment plan varies for each patient. The main goals of whiplash treatment are to restore normal neck motion range, manage your pain, and help you return to performing your usual activities.

The Mayo Clinic notes that treatments for whiplash include pain management. Generally, your doctor will recommend some rest (but just for a day or two after the accident) and over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, and other medications. Applying heat or cold to the neck every 15 minutes every three hours may help.

In some cases, your doctors may prescribe prescription medications (including antidepressant drugs) and short-term use of muscle relaxants. Injections of “lidocaine (Xylocaine) — a numbing medicine — into painful muscle areas may be used to decrease pain so that you can do physical therapy.”

Another treatment strategy for whiplash is exercise. Exercises generally include movement exercises and stretching exercises that whiplash accident victims can do at home. Taking a warm shower before exercising may help. Some of the exercises that may help include:

  • “Rotating your neck in both directions
  • Tilting your head side to side
  • Bending your neck toward your chest
  • Rolling your shoulders”

Whiplash patients may also benefit by working with a physical therapist. The therapist will focus on exercises that improve your posture, strengthen your muscles, and restore normal movement. Another treatment option is the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). A TENS device “applies a mild electric current to the skin.”

Different victims need different treatments and a different amount of sessions.

The Mayo Clinic states that “soft foam cervical collars were once commonly used for whiplash injuries to hold the neck and head still. However, studies have shown that keeping the neck still for long periods of time can decrease muscle strength and interfere with recovery.’ Different doctors often have different recommendations regarding the length of use of soft foam cervical collars.

A few nontraditional treatments that may help include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massages, and mind-body therapies.

Why you should seek help after a Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA car accident

It’s best to seek emergency medical help after any car accident. The advantages of seeking prompt help for whiplash are:

  • You may have other issues such as internal bleeding, soft tissue damage, or broken bones that need treatment.
  • If you delay treatment, the insurance companies will likely argue that the delay means that you weren’t in very much pain – otherwise, you would have seen a doctor right away.

In most rear-end accidents, the driver who struck you from behind is liable for your injuries. Many rear-end accidents happened because the diver behind you was speeding or was driving while distracted. At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA car accident lawyers work aggressively to hold responsible defendants liable when their negligence causes your injuries. We demand compensation for all your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.

To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 360-695-3309 or complete our contact form.