Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from a car accident. Though many deny its existence, it is a real, painful neck injury that can result in lost wages and excessive medical expenses. Whiplash can cause serious neck pain, so much that an injured person may be irritable and unable to concentrate, ultimately conflicting with their daily activities to the point that their livelihood may be at stake. How does whiplash occur? What should be done immediately following a car accident to prevent further injury? What are the treatment options for someone who is suffering from whiplash?
What is Whiplash? What does it do?
Whiplash occurs when a sudden movement causes strain on the neck. As a result, neck ligaments, muscles, and other tissues are torn. It is usually a result of a rear-end accident, when a car bumps into the back of another. Whiplash can result from rear-end accidents of both fast and slow speeds. The most common whiplash cause? When a car slams on its breaks before a red light, catching the car behind it off guard and ultimately resulting in a collision.
Whiplash is extremely painful for the injured person, and directly interferes with daily activities. Because the neck muscles are crucial to supporting the head, it is very difficult to carry out the day without a functioning neck. Simple tasks that require little to no movement like working at a desk and having a conversation with another person can be extremely difficult to a person who has experienced whiplash. If these types of activities are hindered by whiplash, think how it impacts people with physically demanding jobs. For these people, whiplash has made their job impossible. Normally, cases of whiplash can incapacitate a person for as much as 3 months, and very serious cases can last up to a year.
Treating Whiplash Following a Car Accident
Following a car accident, it is always a good idea to seek medical treatment. A doctor can assess the injuries and take necessary tests. However, besides initial pain and stiffness, additional symptoms of whiplash may not show up until a few days after the accident. The thing about whiplash is that there is no immediate treatment, but it simply takes time and active therapy to treat. Here are some of the treatment options a person with whiplash might take:
- Cervical Collar. Also known as a neck brace, many doctors instruct their whiplash patients to wear this immobilization device to prevent other injuries from occurring. This may be necessary for initial pain, but it should not be relied upon to completely heal the injury.
- Range of Motion Exercises. Studies have shown that if a person suffering from whiplash wears a neck brace constantly for more than a day or two, it is actually detrimental to the healing process. Instead, the patient should do regular exercises rotating the head throughout the day to increase circulation and promote healing.
- Physical Therapy. If a person is having a hard time shedding a neck brace, encouragement from a third party may be necessary to practice range of motion exercises regularly.
- Medication. A doctor may choose to prescribe pain management medication to treat whiplash symptoms. However, medication should not be relied upon because of the tendency to become dependent.