neck injury

What You Need to Know about Whiplash

Whiplash results from hyperextension of the ligaments and muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. This usually occurs from a sudden, forceful movement of your head or body. It is most commonly associated with people who have been in a car accident—although there are many other ways it can happen. The physical symptoms of whiplash can be extremely debilitating and potentially long-term if not properly treated.

The scary thing about whiplash is that you may not realize you have been injured until many hours after the accident. Also, it is not always easy to diagnose. If you think you might be suffering from whiplash, find out the causes, symptoms and treatments. If you were rear-ended recently, don’t wait to document the accident and any injuries you sustained—especially if you plan on seeking compensation from the party at fault.


What are the Causes of Whiplash?

Did you know that whiplash can happen from car accidents that occur at low speeds? Whiplash can happen even if the force didn’t seem severe. It happens because the weight of your body accelerates suddenly before your head has a chance to catch up. The weight of your head snaps quickly into place after your body is thrust forward causing your neck, shoulders and upper back to bear all of the force—acting much like a whip.


Not all cases involving whiplash are from car accidents, here are some other possible causes of whiplash:

  • Most commonly associated with auto accidents—particularly if rear-ended.
  • While riding a horse, AT, or rollercoaster.
  • Being punched in the face hard enough that it causes your head to whip backwards.
  • Being physically shaken (usually associated with abuse).
  • Receiving a major blow to the head from a blunt object.
  • Injury from a contact sport like football, wrestling or boxing.


The muscles in your neck are not strong enough to withstand any kind of sudden force. Whiplash is especially damaging because it occurs while you are most likely tensing your body and neck while being jerked in an abnormal way. This demand to hyperextend tense muscles is what causes tears in the tiny muscles and ligaments of your neck and spine.


What are the Symptoms Associated with Whiplash?

Most whiplash injuries are mild and treatable. The symptoms usually dissipate within a few months and are managed by taking over-the-counter pain medication. However, no two individuals are the same and some people may experience more severe symptoms or long-term effects.


Common Symptoms Associated with Whiplash Include:

  • Neck/shoulders/upper back pain, tenderness, muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Blurred vision, dizziness or headaches
  • Pain, tingling, numbness or paraesthesia in the arms and hands
  • Confusion, irritability and depression
  • Vertigo, fatigue, memory problems, ringing in the ears


Because your neck and spine house your central nervous system, the symptoms are sometimes the result of nerve damage. This is what makes whiplash difficult to diagnose. You could be suffering with confusion, depression, headaches or vertigo and not realize the cause. In addition to the nearly limitless symptoms associated with nerve damage—many people don’t realize they have it until hours or days after the initial accident took place.


Think about when you work out or play sports. Do your muscles feel more soreness the day of or the day after? If you have ever pulled or strained a muscle, you might feel the pain at first, but only notice the severity of the pain days later.


The same principles apply in cases of whiplash, except the symptoms are much more serious because of the location of the injury and the areas of the body it affects.


Are There Any Long-term Effects?

If you were in a major accident and experienced a significant amount of neck pain right after it happened, you may be at a higher risk of developing long-term disabilities associated with whiplash. This is not the case for most people and the symptoms are usually minor—such as slight memory loss.


However, more serious injuries do happen, such as temporomandibular disorders, or TMD. If you are experiencing pain and tightness in your jaw, seek medical attention right away. You might be suffering with TMD, frequently referred to as “lock jaw.”


This condition can be temporary or last for years. The symptoms also vary in extremity; some people only experience minor clicking and popping, while others develop difficulties chewing, swallowing and opening their mouths. TMD can cause the jaw to become locked or stuck shut temporarily. TMD is very treatable, but more effective if treated immediately after the injury that caused it to happen.


If you have been in an accident and may be suffering with whiplash—see a doctor immediately. If you have any more severe injuries and plan on fighting for compensation, you should also see a doctor immediately and keep thorough records. Our team at Kenneth Cristall Law can help you get the documentation necessary to establish your case. Please contact us today to discuss your situation!



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