Dealing with Whiplash Injuries

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Dealing with Whiplash Injuries

Dealing with Whiplash Injuries


One of the most common injuries suffered by people involved in motor vehicle accidents is whiplash. Because it happens so frequently, whiplash often doesn’t get the consideration it deserves. In fact, whiplash injuries can be serious and even debilitating.


Whiplash occurs when the neck sustains an injury due to a fast and forceful back-and-forth motion, like the cracking of a whip. Technically, it’s an injury to the muscles or tendons of the cervical region of the spine, and can also be known as a cervical strain. This type of injury very often occurs when a car is hit from behind, because when a car is rear-ended, the people inside move very quickly from a position of rest to a high rate of speed. The head moves back and then snaps forward, with g-forces impacting the neck. This overstretches muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and can result in tears and strains to them. Depending on the speed of the vehicle(s), the injuries sustained can be severe. (Whiplash can also result from sports accidents, physical abuse, slip and fall accidents, or other trauma.)


According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

These symptoms usually – but not always – present themselves within 24 hours after the injury occurs.


Additional symptoms may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

Most people who suffer from a soft tissue injury will recover within eight to twelve weeks, but it’s not possible to predict what recovery time may be. You may be at risk for chronic effects from whiplash if you have had whiplash before, if you are older at the time of the injury, or if you had existing back or neck pain before the accident occurred.


A medical professional can usually diagnose whiplash by examining you and asking you some questions. This may include asking you to demonstrate the range of motion in your neck and shoulders, assessing the degree of pain you feel when performing certain movements, evaluating any tenderness in the neck, shoulders, or back, and testing your reflexes. The doctor may also order tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs in order to rule out other explanations for your neck pain.


Treating Whiplash

The goals of treating whiplash are to control the pain of the injury, to regain the range of motion, and to restore the patient’s ability to do the tasks they performed before the injury occurred. There are several different ways in which your medical team may work toward these goals. Most patients will require some pain medication for the period right after the injury; some may only need over-the-counter drugs such as Advil or Tylenol, but others might require prescription medication. Your doctor might prescribe a muscle relaxant, for example, or a pain medication that contains codeine. Some patients also benefit from taking an anti-depressant in combination with pain medication. In severe cases, an injection of lidocaine can numb muscles enough to allow the patient to do physical therapy.


Targeted stretching is the usual type of regimen required to restore range of motion. These exercises can include rotating the neck in both directions, tilting the head from side to side, touching the chin to the chest, or rolling the shoulders. People who have difficulty doing these exercises on their own may require the assistance of a physical therapist, who can usually find ways to help. In particularly painful cases, therapists sometimes recommend the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, which uses a mild electrical current on the affected area.


Personal Injury Law

If your injury resolves itself within two or three months, like most whiplash injuries do, you should return to your ordinary life without too much trouble. However, many times whiplash injuries result in the patient’s inability to work, or, in the most severe instances, in the need for special accommodation or care. Sometimes whiplash can lead to a chronic injury that greatly impacts the patient’s ability to live life as they wish to.


If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulty with everyday life due to a whiplash injury, you should talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. It is often possible to make a claim that can provide you with compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, caregiver and housekeeping expenses, medical costs, and more.


In Ontario, most personal injury law firms will provide you with a free consultation with a lawyer. During this consultation, the lawyer will assess your situation and let you know what options are available to you.


If you or a family member is suffering due to a whiplash injury, talk to a personal injury lawyer today and get the compensation you deserve.