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Whiplash Injury

Did You Know?

Over 1,000,000 people suffer whiplash injury in the U.S. every year and almost a quarter of these patients will suffer from chronic pain and disability.

Whiplash hurls your head violently backward and forward, injuring your neck. The effects of whiplash can be short term or life long, and can leave the neck forever vulnerable to injury. The injury can also extend to shoulders and arms. Approximately 10% of people injured in car accidents will have long-term disability and 1 in 7 victims will still have significant pain more than 3 years after the accident.

The injury is caused by damage to the soft tissue of the neck and is also called neck sprain or neck strain. The injury is characterized by a number of symptoms that may occur following injury to the neck caused by sudden extension and flexion. The injury usually occurs as a result of an automobile accident and may include injury to the joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots of the neck and spine. The symptoms may be present immediately after the accident or may be delayed for several days or occasionally by a week or more.

Whiplash Injury - Diagnosis

Whiplash can be diagnosed with a simple physical examination or using x-rays. X-rays will also be used to see if there are any fractures of the vertebrae and the extent to which the alignment of the neck has been altered. After a whiplash injury your neck's natural curve may be reversed, which unevenly distributes the weight of your head and may further misalign the vertebrae.

Whiplash Injury - Treatment

Treatment for whiplash injury may include analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants and a cervical collar usually worn only for a short period of time. Exercises, physical therapy and traction together with heat application may relieve muscle tension. Prognosis for whiplash is generally good and the neck and head pain usually clears within a few days or weeks. Most patients will fully recover within 3 months however some may continue to have residual neck pain, discomfort and headaches for a long period and in some cases the injury may become chronic with no possibility of full recovery.

There are several recognized factors that affect the extent of the injury and these include:

  • The posture in which a person is sitting at the moment of impact contributes to the severity of the injury. Sitting in an upright posture helps to reduce injury whilst sitting in a slumped posture may increase injury.
  • The better condition the body is in, including the nervous system, the better the body will respond to impact.
  • The most important factor is awareness of the impending impact allowing the person to automatically prepare the body's stabilization system to respond quickly and efficiently.
  • Women sustain more serious injury than men due to differences in muscular bulk and bone structures, which provide protection to the cervical spine.

Whiplash Injury - Claims for Compensation

If you have a severe injury from a car accident, you may be able to qualify for insurance compensation. Certain factors may depend on how the accident occurred and the laws in your state


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