Whiplash is an relatively common injury which is often sustained in rear-end car accidents. It occurs when a person’s head is suddenly thrust backward and then forward on impact. The forces involved cause a person’s head and neck muscles and ligaments to be pushed beyond a normal range of motion causing the injury.
While many people recover from a whiplash injury in a matter of weeks, some people sustain a more severe injury and require pain medications and therapy. Some people, however, suffer chronic pain after a car accident. Women are more likely than men to suffer a whiplash injury because their neck muscles are not as strong.
Symptoms of Whiplash Injury
After a car accident, you might initially feel like that you are OK. However, symptoms of a whiplash injury can begin to present themselves within the next 24 hours.
Symptoms can include:
Other people can suffer more severe symptoms including ringing in the ears, problems with concentration, irritability and problems with memory.
By all means seek medical care if you feel tingling, numbness or weakness in your arms, if you have difficulty moving your head or if your neck pain spreads to your shoulders and arms.
Complications of Whiplash Injury
Most people who sustain a whiplash injury recover in a few months however there are some people who continue to suffer from pain and other complications for months or even years. In some patients, pain is caused by injury to the disks, ligaments and joints of the neck. In some cases, no test can point to a particular cause of the pain but patients can attest that the pain is real.
Diagnosis of Whiplash Injury
Your physician should conduct a thorough case history about the onset of your neck and shoulder pain. You would be well-advised to write down information about your injury to aid in communication with your doctor and also to document your injury. Your case hisotry should contain information about what caused your injury, what medications you are taking, and your symptoms. Your description should include information about your pain and whether it is shooting pain or sharp pain and what movements or postures alleviate or increase your pain.
Your doctor may perform a variety of tests including a neurological exam to check for weakness of the muscles, reflexes and numbness. Other tests can include Xrays, MRI or CT scans.