Understanding whiplash following a car accident

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries people experience after a car accident. Every year, over one million Americans sustain whiplash-related injuries from collisions. While a majority of these injuries are minor, there are others that result in long-term chronic conditions.

Whiplash occurs when an individual's head moves backward and then forward suddenly with great force. The ligaments and muscles in the neck extend beyond their normal range of motion, resulting in soft tissue damage. It is paramount to see a doctor after any kind of motor vehicle accident.

What are the most common symptoms of whiplash?

It may take a couple days for symptoms to develop, although there are times when they will be readily apparent. Typical symptoms include:

  • Weariness
  • Constant dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Chronic headaches, particularly those that originate at the base of the skull
  • Stiffness and pain in the neck

How do doctors diagnose whiplash?

Whiplash that ranges from mild to moderate can typically receive treatment of ice and over-the-counter medication. When you see a doctor, he or she will ask how the injury occurred. Provide as many details as you can about the collision and any pain you currently experience. In some cases, the doctor will ask for an X-ray to determine whether the condition relates to any other degenerative diseases. MRI and CT scans are also common and can help the doctor better determine the extent of the injury.

What happens when a person does not treat whiplash promptly?

Many people avoid seeing a doctor after a car accident because they feel perfectly fine. However, the injury could lurk beneath the surface, and if it remains untreated, then the person will experience chronic headaches and bodily pain. Your doctor may need to prescribe muscle relaxants and painkillers for severe cases of whiplash. Physical therapy can also be a big help, and it is best to begin therapy as soon as possible after your injury.

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