Our Columbia car accident lawyers know that whiplash is one of the most common injuries reported among car accident victims. In this post, we answer five frequently asked questions about whiplash injuries, their symptoms, and their effect on the lives of injury victims.
What is whiplash?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) defines whiplash as "a soft tissue injury to the neck-is also called neck sprain or neck strain. It is characterized by a collection of symptoms that occur following damage to the neck, usually because of sudden extension and flexion." A whiplash injury is caused by a sudden jerking or whipping of the head or neck, which commonly occurs during car accidents (especially rear-end collisions).
What are the most common symptoms of whiplash injuries?
Depending on the severity of the injury, there are numerous symptoms associated with whiplash injuries. These symptoms may not appear until hours or even days after an injury occurs. They include the following:
• Neck, shoulder or back pain, especially when turning the head
• Swelling or muscle spasms in the neck or shoulders
• Headache; impaired concentration or memory
• Dizziness or fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Tightness or pain in the jaw
• Insomnia or sleep disruptions
• Ringing in the ears
When should I see a doctor?
In general, if you think you may be suffering from whiplash, it's often wise to seek medical attention as soon as possible - again, symptoms may not appear right away, so you may not know how badly you're hurt. Here are some "red flags" that may indicate a visit to the doctor is necessary:
• The pain or stiffness in your neck becomes severe, or it returns after appearing to go away.
• The pain or stiffness spreads from your neck to your shoulders, arms or back.
• You experience numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.
How are whiplash injuries treated?
It depends on the severity of the injury. Mild whiplash injuries are often be treated with over-the-counter pain medication, heat and ice combinations, and rest. On the other hand, severe whiplash injuries often cause chronic pain and require extended medical attention, including visits to the chiropractor, physical therapy, ultrasounds, and medicine.
How long does it take to recover from a whiplash injury?
Recovery time can vary from two to three weeks for more mild whiplash injuries to months or even years for severe forms of whiplash. Studies have shown that a victim's pain level approximately three weeks after the date of injury is "the single most important predictor of who recovers in a timely manner," according to David Walton, a physical therapist who reviewed more than 3,000 whiplash cases and presented his findings at the 2012 World Congress on Neck Pain.