Whiplash is an injury that occurs as a result of a sudden acceleration/deceleration force, commonly found during a motor vehicle accident. Usually, a stationary car is struck from behind, throwing the victim’s head and neck into hyperextension. A whiplash injury can affect both bone structures and the soft tissues that support the neck, such as intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots. Whiplash injuries can be costly, as healing is oftentimes a lengthy and complicated process.
Symptoms of whiplash vary, leading some skeptics to believe that it isn’t so much a real, physical injury than it is a money-making ploy. Investigative studies have determined that while there are always people out there trying to “game the system,” whiplash is legitimate. Symptoms can include stiffness in the neck, headaches, dizziness, burning or prickling sensations and neck, shoulder or back pain. Some cases even result in memory loss, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue and depression. In most cases, clients don’t feel the whiplash injury until several hours or a day or two after the impact. If there is tremendous pain immediately at the scene, that is usually an indication of a more severe injury such as a herniation or fracture.
There are many different kinds of treatment approaches for whiplash. One may be prescribed pain medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants or a cervical collar, which is generally worn for a few weeks. Oftentimes whiplash injuries require physical therapy, cervical traction or range of motion exercises to heal. Patients who are prescribed a cervical collar and range of motion exercises early on in their treatment are shown to recover more quickly than those who are not; immobilization may lead to stiffness, increased pain, muscle atrophy and decreased blood flow.
It is very important that a whiplash patient is educated about their injury, so as to avoid longer-term whiplash associated disorders. If they fail to follow doctor’s protocol and treatment course, they may actually cause more harm.
Important note: While whiplash injuries are indeed real and can cause serious injury, I hate to say that most insurance companies simply don’t place much “value” on such cases. They lump them into the “soft tissue” category. So while your pain may be very real to you, and your injury very legitimate, don’t expect much compensation from an insurance adjuster (or a jury for that matter).
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,