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Symptoms of a Whiplash Injury

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Young woman holding back of neck in pain, car crash in background
Whiplash injuries are among the most common types of injuries that can happen in car accidents. According to researchers, more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. go to the emergency department for the treatment of whiplash-associated disorders every year. But although whiplash is common, it is also poorly understood. Many people who suffer whiplash injuries in collisions do not realize they have been injured for several hours or days following their crashes. Scroll down to explore the symptoms of a whiplash injury.

What Are the Symptoms of a Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash injuries are caused by a rapid acceleration of the head and neck forward followed by an equally rapid deceleration backward. This sudden and violent back-and-forth movement can strain the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the neck and shoulders and can damage the discs of the cervical spine. Many people who suffer whiplash will not notice symptoms immediately following a car crash because of the surge of adrenaline they experience. Once the adrenaline subsides, the most common symptoms of a whiplash injury include the following:

  • Pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Neck stiffness
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Ringing in the ears (also known as tinnitus)
  • Headaches starting at the base of the skull

A whiplash injury might be categorized by grade in terms of its severity. Milder whiplash injuries are graded at one or two while more severe cases are graded at three or four. In cases involving mild whiplash injuries, the symptoms might resolve over a few weeks. In severe cases, however, people might suffer cervical disc herniations, fractured cervical vertebrae, or neurological symptoms such as numbness in the arms or prickling sensations. Other symptoms of a severe whiplash injury might include cognitive issues, including anxiety, memory loss, and irritability.

When to See a Doctor

The best time to see a doctor following a car accident is immediately after it happens. It is a good idea to seek medical attention any time you are involved in a crash to identify whiplash or other injuries that might have delayed symptoms. If you don’t seek immediate medical attention, your injuries can worsen. Delaying treatment can also make it harder for you to prove that your injuries occurred because of your accident instead of a different incident. Make sure to see a doctor if you experience any of the common symptoms of whiplash.

How Is a Whiplash Injury Diagnosed?

If a doctor suspects that you might have suffered a whiplash injury, they will conduct a physical examination. They might ask for details about your car accident and your symptoms and then examine your neck and spine. The doctor might test the range of motion in your neck by asking you to move your head and neck in each direction while checking for pain. This test allows the doctor to test your range of motion, pain level, and any muscular spasms that might be happening in your neck.

Your doctor might also order imaging tests of your neck and back to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms, including an x-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. These tests might help the doctor rule out fractures, disc herniations, and other injuries that might be involved.

Treatment for Whiplash

The treatment you receive will depend on the severity of your injury. If your injury is less severe, you might be told to take over-the-counter pain relievers, apply heat and cold therapy, and get plenty of rest. If your injury is severe, you might be prescribed pain-relieving medications, muscle relaxers, and corticosteroid injections. The doctor might also refer you to a physical therapist to improve the range of motion in your neck. If you have neurological symptoms, you might be referred to a neurologist for specialized treatment.

Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney

While whiplash is a fairly common type of car accident injury, the symptoms can be debilitating. If you suffered a whiplash injury in an accident in which someone else was at fault, you might be entitled to pursue compensation for your losses. Contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your potential rights by calling 417-322-2222 or sending us a message online.

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