Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when an impact causes your head to snap back and forth rapidly, which causes neck strains, sprains, or other damage to the muscles and bones of your neck.
According to the Mayo Clinic, car accidents are a common cause of these painful injuries. You may experience whiplash from any collision that makes your head snap, including front-end, rear end, and side impact car accidents.
What Happens to Your Body When You Get a Whiplash
When your car is impacted by another vehicle or hits an object, your body is subjected to significant force. The force can throw your head backward and forward, causing your head and neck to exceed their natural range of motion. Here are some of the effects of whiplash:
Tendons and Ligaments
When a crash makes your head and neck move quickly beyond their intended range of motion, the over-extension can stretch and tear your neck tendons and ligaments, resulting in pain and sometimes severe injuries.
Muscle and Bone Damage
Muscles, nerves, and other soft tissue may also sustain damage with these rapid over-extending movements. Sometimes when people suffer a whiplash, the vertebrae and discs in their necks are damaged as well. You should get medical attention right away if you suspect you have experienced any type of neck injury.
Because your head rapidly accelerates and decelerates in a whiplash-inducing crash, the brain gets flung around within the fixed space of the skull. As a result, you can sustain brain damage and loss of cognitive function from a car accident.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Some people experience the symptoms of whiplash immediately, but for many people the signs of whiplash take a day or two to appear. Here are some of the more common symptoms you experience with a whiplash neck injury:
- Headaches that can last for a few weeks or many months
- Dizziness and fatigue, either constant or off-and-on
- Pain and stiffness in your neck
- Difficulty turning or nodding your head
- Numbness, tingling, tenderness, or pain in your arms
How a Whiplash Injury Can Affect Your Daily Life
The symptoms of whiplash can make your daily life unpleasant, if not impossible. With professional treatment, most whiplashes will heal well within a few months. However, some people suffer for many months or even years.
The headaches that often accompany a whiplash can range from unpleasant to debilitating. The intensity, frequency, and duration of your headaches will determine whether you can perform your routine activities or function on the job.
Inability to Drive
If you cannot turn your head, you might not be able to drive until your full range of motion returns. In jobs that require driving or other functions that require normal head movements, you might lose time from work until your body heals.
Inability to Work
Fatigue and dizziness can make it impossible and unsafe for you to perform daily activities or work. Numbness and tingling in your arms can make it difficult to lift or carry objects.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Whiplash
If you’ve been in an accident, it is critical that you get medical attention right away, even if you don’t think you are injured. Then, talk to a personal injury lawyer to protect your right to pursue a whiplash claim.