Whiplash is caused by a sudden strain which can affect bones, discs, muscles, nerves and tendons in the back, but more particularly in the neck. Whilst most of these injuries occur as a result of motor accidents and there are more than 10,000 of them each year, others do occur such as accidents at work or during contact sports. It is the sudden and unexpected force jerking the head backwards and forwards that can sometimes cause the bones of the neck to move slightly out of position or tear or stretch muscles and tendons which causes the problems and can often lead to nerve damage and, in some cases, minor brain damage.
We always use medical experts to diagnose a patient's injuries. Our experts will observe your symptoms and, along with considering the medical history, together with a physical examination, determine whether the neck or spine has been injured. Sometimes whiplash symptoms appear immediately and are present even before you get out of the car or move away from where the accident happened but very commonly such injuries do not develop for several hours, days or even weeks after the injury has occurred. Common symptoms can include the following:-
Pain or stiffness in the neck and back with restrictions on movement. Headaches, feeling of sickness or even being sick.
- Numbness, loss of feeling, pins and needles, muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders or sometimes in the hands and arms.
- Headaches and pains radiating from the back of the neck into the head
- Blurred vision.
Who is at risk?
The people most commonly at risk are the occupants of cars whether they hit a vehicle ahead of them or a vehicle that hits them from behind.
If a victim is aware that an accident is about to happen sometimes they come off less badly injured and other times, because they stiffen themselves to prepare for the impact, they come off worse.
Usually the heavier the impact and often the more damage there is to the vehicle the more serious the injury is, although this is by no means applies to every case.
Some people suffer quite severe whiplash injuries in very low speed crashes and there is currently a scientific and legal debate about these types of claims.
Headrests in the proper place can reduce a risk of injury but although studies have suggested that the wearing of seatbelts can reduce head injuries, some studies suggest that they lead to an increased risk of whiplash injury.
Everybody suggests whiplash with impact of a vehicle behind but often impact from vehicles from the side can produce more serious injuries than rear end accidents.
Immediate pain and stiffness can often indicate a bone, joint or nerve damage and medical assistance should be sought immediately.
You should consult the local Hospital and your GP as soon as possible after a whiplash injury and seek their advice about referral for physiotherapy. The sooner treatment is administered the quicker the likely recovery and the less likely there will be long term problems.
Although it can be very painful and debilitating whiplash does not usually cause serious or permanent damage. A previous whiplash accident can often mean you suffer more severe symptoms from a further accident because there is a remaining weakness in the muscles previously damaged.
The number of people suffering long term damage from whiplash injuries is quite small and serious injuries are normally noticed at the time of the accident or very shortly afterwards.
Pain and restriction of movement can develop hours or even days after the accident but this usually means the injury is not so serious. In most cases the period of severe pain and restriction of movement improves within a few days and whilst general aches and pains and niggles often last up to 18 months, most victims find that they can resume all daily activities within a period of no more than 3 months and in all cases early intervention and appropriate therapy is the key to a quick recovery.