Medical information - whiplash neck injury

The first thing you should do if you believe you are suffering from a whiplash injury is visit a GP or an Accident and Emergency department at a local hospital.

The impact of even a relatively low-speed car accident can cause your neck and cervical spine to move in such a way that ligaments and tendons, as well as muscle tissue, are damaged.

whiplash xray

How does a whiplash injury happen?

Cervical neck injury following impact has become known as whiplash injury due to the ‘whipping' movement of the head back and forth as the body responds to the forces exerted upon it.

In most car accidents, an impact causes the body to be pushed either forward, backwards or sideways and this results in a rapid, unexpected movement of the head. The neck is forcefully extended or flexed beyond its normal limits and this hyperextension and hyperflexion can cause damage to neck tissue.

In most cases, whiplash injury is medically described as an acute sprain which will heal well within a few weeks or months. But if ligaments and tendons tear or break, the symptoms can be far more severe.

Symptoms of whiplash

NHS UK lists the following as symptoms of whiplash:

  • headaches
  • neckpain and tenderness
  • shoulder pain
  • arm pain
  • spasms
  • neck stiffness and reduced mobility

Rarer symptoms include:

  • dizziness;
  • pins and needles;
  • some cognitive disruption

Don't try to self-diagnose following an accident, always go to see a medical practitioner who will be able to diagnose your condition fully and advise you on the best course of treatment.

Plus, in the event that symptoms develop and you wish to make a claim for compensation your medical notes could form an important part of the case.

Less common symptoms

Always see your doctor if any of the following symptoms persist after an accident:

  • lower back pain
  • numbness and paraesthesia (pins and needles) in the hands and arms
  • muscle spasms
  • tiredness
  • vertigo – a spinning sensation while sitting/standing still
  • dizziness
  • amnesia (memory loss)
  • poor concentration
  • irritability

Persistent headaches and emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, along with pain, dizziness and paraesthesia could be an indication that you are suffering from chronic, or long-term, whiplash. Seek advice from your doctor about the best way to get help with your condition.

How long does whiplash last?

NHS UK says that recovery time for whiplash is difficult to predict.In most cases symptoms will resolve within a matter of weeks or months. In the most severe cases they may last for longer than a year.

Treatment of whiplash

In most cases whiplash neck injuries are self-limiting – they will get better on their own. However, you might need to take a few days off work to rest and to keep hospital appointments in the future. For some people, especially those in very active or physical jobs, you may be unable to return to normal duties for some months.

Health practitioners suggest the following treatment for mild to moderate whiplash:

  • keep you neck and upper body mobile by doing some gentle exercise
  • don't wear a neck brace or collar as this will hinder movement and could prolong the healing time
  • take painkillers (analgesics) to relieve aching and soreness – your doctor will prescribe the most appropriate, but, generally, over-the-counter medicines will be adequate
  • for persistent aches and pains and chronic (long-term) whiplash physiotherapy may be recommended

Always visit a health practitioner if you are suffering pain and discomfort after an accident.

If you want to speak to a solicitor about how your whiplash neck injury has affected your life and your ability to work, contact us today using the green buttons at the bottom right-hand side of this page.

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