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Basics on Auto Accidents and Whiplash

Whiplash is one of the most common symptoms experienced by those who are in a car accident of any kind, and yet there are some who question whether it’s even a real medical condition. Because it’s not a proper medical term always used by doctors, some are confused about what the term actually means.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’re here to tell you that whiplash from a car or truck accident is very real. In fact, the term and condition existed before cars were even invented. And if it happens to you in a car accident, one of our personal injury attorneys is standing by to consult with you about whether you might seek compensation from another party. Here are some basics to know on whiplash, including signs that you have it and how it’s treated.

basics auto accidents whiplash

Whiplash Basics and Causes

Whiplash is a broad term that actually describes a set of medical conditions that involve the ligaments, vertebrae and muscles in your neck and shoulders. It generally happens when the neck is extended forward suddenly by a violent force, such as a car accident. Your head is thrown backward but then forward, which stretches or tears the anterior longitudinal ligament – the ligament responsible for stability on the outer surface of the spine.

During whiplash, the spine may take an S shape, which leads to muscle injuries as well. The trapezius or supraspinatus muscles are common injury areas here, and often retain pain for weeks or months after.

Whiplash Symptoms

Now, it’s important to note that you don’t necessarily always have whiplash just because your head snapped back and forth. Rather, look for any of the following symptoms appearing within 24 hours:

  • Stiffness or increasing neck pain
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Limited range of movement in the neck
  • Numbness in the arm
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep issues

See a doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms – both for health reasons and because there may be a limit on your personal injury case if you wait too long.

How It’s Diagnosed

When you see a doctor, they will assess your reflexes, range of motion in the neck, and your limb strength. They may also order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to confirm the diagnosis – this may reveal no whiplash in some cases, or in others may reveal a more significant injury like a fractured vertebrae.

How It’s Treated

The majority of treatment for whiplash will be rest and pain management, which can include heat or ice treatment, pain medications and possibly muscle relaxants. Exercise and stretching of the head and neck area may also be recommended. One big myth area to avoid during whiplash treatment: The foam collar around the neck that some people wear. This actually immobilizes the neck and delays recovery – the muscles in these areas need to move and stretch out to recover properly, and the foam collar doesn’t allow this.

For more on whiplash or whether it might impact your auto accident case, speak to the attorneys at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.


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