As our Springfield personal injury lawyers know, car accidents can result in a wide variety of physical and financial consequences, depending on the circumstances surrounding a crash. One kind of injury commonly caused by rear-end collisions is known as whiplash, which refers to neck pain stemming from an injury to soft tissue like ligaments, tendons and muscles. The term comes from the way your head and neck are snapped forward when your vehicle is struck from behind - and the faster the other vehicle is moving, the greater the jolt of impact to your neck and spine. In many cases, these kinds of injuries can't be seen on standard X-rays, but they can be extremely painful and debilitating.
Accident victims who suffer from whiplash may not experience any symptoms until hours or even days after the injury occurs - in fact, symptoms may emerge, go away, and then come back again. That's one reason it's so essential to seek medical treatment immediately following a rear-end collision, even if you think you're not hurt. Common symptoms of whiplash include the following:
• Swelling in the neck
• Tenderness in the neck and shoulders
• Muscle spasms in the neck or the back of the shoulders
• Stiffness or difficulty flexing, extending or rotating the head
• Headache; difficulty concentrating or remembering things
• Tightness in the jaw; difficulty chewing
• Vision problems; ringing in the ears; nerve irritation (in more severe cases)
According to the San Francisco Spine Institute, many people who suffer from whiplash are able to recover within a few weeks or months, but about 15% to 20% develop chronic pain. Research indicates that a victim's pain level about three weeks after being injured is "the single most important predictor of who recovers in a timely manner," says David Walton, PT, researcher at The University of Western Ontario. Furthermore, the Institute of Work and Health reports that recovery can be a lengthy process when it comes to whiplash and other soft tissue injuries: nearly half of whiplash victims report neck pain and other symptoms a full year after they are injured. When symptoms are initially more severe, recovery can take even longer.
The best medical approach to whiplash treatment varies according to the patient: medication, physical therapy, injections and ultrasounds have all proven effective under different circumstances. If you've been involved in a rear-end collision and you have symptoms of a neck or soft tissue injury, we urge you to follow up with a medical provider as soon as possible. In addition, you may also benefit from a consultation with an experienced car accident attorney.