Whiplash: A Brief Explanation

One of the most common injuries caused by car accidents is a series of conditions commonly known as “whiplash.” Maybe you were just recently in a car accident and are experiencing it right now. But what is whiplash really? This article will breakdown the basics of whiplash.

Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.

Whiplash is commonly caused by rear-end car accidents. But whiplash can also result from sports accidents, physical abuse and other types of traumas, such as a fall. Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also include other types of neck injuries.

Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.

Whiplash typically occurs when your head is forcefully and quickly thrown backward and then forward. This motion can injure bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck.

A whiplash injury may result from:

  • Auto accidents. Rear-end collisions are a major cause of whiplash.
  • Physical abuse or assault. Whiplash can occur if you are punched or shaken. It’s one of the injuries seen in shaken baby syndrome.
  • Contact sports. Football tackles and other sports-related collisions can sometimes cause whiplash.

Most people who have whiplash feel better within a few weeks and don’t seem to have any lasting effects from the injury. However, some people continue to have pain for several months or years after the injury occurred.

It is difficult to predict how each person with whiplash may recover. In general, you may be more likely to have chronic pain if your first symptoms were intense, started rapidly and included:

  • Severe neck pain
  • More-limited range of motion
  • Pain that spread to the arms

The following risk factors have been linked to a worse outcome:

  • Having had whiplash before
  • Older age
  • Existing low back or neck pain
  • A high-speed injury

The good news is that, typically, whiplash is a very treatable injury. The most effective way to recover from whiplash is to begin treatment immediately following the accident. Treating early and often can significantly increase your chances for making full and complete recovery.

If you or a loved one has recently been injured and are experiencing any of the symptoms related to whiplash, give us a call at Waggener Law.