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Whiplash Injuries

02nd March 2010
By Jason Epstein in Accident claims
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Whiplash injuries are a common result of a car accident because of the sharp changes in speed and direction of the body. Rear-impact, or rear-end car crashes tend to produce the most cases of the whiplash personal injury because the occupants of the front car are not able to anticipate the crash and thus are caught off guard. Sometimes, anticipation of the pending impact can make these injuries even worse! Studies have shown that one in five people involved in a rear-impact car accident have complained of neck pain after the incident. Approximately one million cases of whiplash occur because of car accidents in the US every year. Of these, 25% of the cases result in chronic pain and long term disability.

The most common type of whiplash occurs in a rear-impact car accident. When your car is hit from behind your car is pushed forward and then shortly after, your body follows. However your body doesn't move forward as one complete unit. Your head and neck are thrown back into the seat and headrest, while your torso is thrown forward. Your head and neck shortly follow in a downward forward motion towards the steering wheel. Your brain's immediate reaction is to slam on the brakes to stop the forward motion of your car. This in turn sends your body quickly backwards until your head and neck hit the headrest again. The extension both forward and backwards of your neck and the resulting impact on the headrest injures the tissues of the neck, resulting in whiplash.

This mechanism can also result in a brain injury as your brain is thrown about inside the hard, protective skull.

Whiplash is formally defined as injury to the soft tissues of the neck due to hyperextention (moving too far backwards) and hyperflexation (too far forwards). These tissues include ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Injury to these tissues can also damage the nerves in the area, resulting in long lasting damage and symptoms in the rest of the body. The most evident symptoms are localized to the neck and head. These symptoms are pain and stiffness in the neck, which can extend down to the shoulders and up to the head and headache. Whiplash can also manifest itself as tingling in the arms and hands because of nerve damage and lower back pain because of damage to the intervertebral joints and discs. Mental function can be impaired and may result in poor concentration or mental performance or loss of memory. Other common symptoms are blurred vision, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and tiredness.

Car manufacturers are improving their designs and technology to help prevent whiplash injuries in car accident victims. The most important part of the car in a whiplash case is the headrest. The headrest should be positioned to support the head's center of gravity. This will help keep the head from going even farther back in the reaction stage of the impact.

If you feel that you have suffered from whiplash, you should call your doctor immediately. If the case is severe, the doctor will likely have you wear a soft collar for a short period of time for protection and to keep the neck tissues in place. However, the most immediate treatment is ice to reduce the swelling and a pain reliever to prevent inflammation. In most cases, the pain subsides within a few months, although in about 25% of cases pain and symptoms continue indefinitely. If you believe you have suffered a whiplash injury, consult your doctor for long term treatment options such as chiropractic, massage, ultrasound and physical therapy.


Jason Epstein is the founder of Straight Talk Law. For more free 'Straight Talk Law' information, please visit the website at where you can order free books on personal injury lawyers, Washington auto accidents, auto insurance and other valuable legal information, offered as a public service by Jason and his law practice in Seattle, Washington.
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