What is Whiplash? Do You Have It After a Car Accident?

whiplash after car accidentWhat is Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury that typically occurs when a person experience rapid and forceful back and forth movement of the neck. This kind of injury most often occurs during a rear end car accident. However, a whiplash neck sprain can also be a result of physical abuse, amusement park rides or sport injuries. Although, whiplash is mostly considered a relatively mild condition that can be cured at home, it can cause long-term discomfort and pain.

When the soft tissues of your neck, including the muscles and ligaments extend beyond its typical range of motion, then a person will have whiplash. A severe whiplash accident can also damage the spinal cord and can result in chronic neck pain.  The symptoms of whiplash do not appear immediately; therefore it is important that one pay attention to any physical pain they may experience in their neck following an accident.

Common Symptoms of Whiplash

Symptoms of Whiplash usually appear within 24 hours following an accident. However, in some cases a person may not feel any symptoms of Whiplash for several days. The common signs and symptoms of Whiplash are as follows:

  • Stiffness and neck pain
  • Neck movement cause worsening of pain
  • Failure to move your head in the usual range of motion
  • Headaches which are mostly experienced at the base of the skull
  • Fatigue
  • Pain and tenderness in shoulder, arms and upper back
  • Numb and tingling feeling in the arm
  • Dizziness

In some cases a person may experience these less common symptoms of long-term chronic whiplash:

  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of concentration
  • Ringing sound in the ear
  • Inability to sleep soundly
  • Depression
  • Irritability

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

You should immediately seek medical help if you experience any of the following:

  • Constant pain and stiffness in your neck
  • Severe neck pain
  • Numbness, tingling and pain in the arms, shoulder or legs
  • Bladder or bowel issue
  • Weakness in your arm or leg

The doctor will diagnose Whiplash by asking you certain questions about the accident and where and what kind of pain you are experiencing. You may also be asked for a physical examination to check your range of motion and area of tenderness. In worst case scenarios, doctors go for X-rays, CT scans and MRIs to access the damage and diagnose whether the inflammation is in the soft tissues, spinal cord or nerves.

Treatment of Whiplash

In most cases Whiplash is mild and can easily be treated at home or using over the counter drugs. You can cure the symptoms of Whiplash by applying ice to the injured area or use a neck brace or collar. You can also treat whiplash by applying moist heat to your neck or take a warm bath. However, for severe injuries, doctors may prescribe you painkillers and muscle relaxant to reduce muscle spasms.

Whiplash is a very common occurrence and very few people experience long-term complications. Typically a person can be fully recovered within a few days to three months.

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