Warning Signs You’re Suffering from a Whiplash Injury After a Car Accident

“Whiplash” is a colloquial term that describes a cervical sprain or cervical strain — in other words, a torn ligament or muscle in the neck.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whiplash is the most commonly reported injury after a car accident, making up about 25% of the payout for accident-related injuries in 2007.  Studies have shown that whiplash, which is most commonly caused by rear-end collisions, can occur even at speeds as low as 15 miles per hour.  If you were injured in a car crash, you may be suffering from a whiplash injury.  You should speak to our Salt Lake City car accident lawyers about getting compensated.

What is a Soft Tissue Injury?

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Whiplash is a soft tissue injury, meaning an injury that affects:

  • Muscles — The human neck contains more than a dozen muscles. When muscles are overextended (hyperextended), muscle fibers can stretch or tear completely.  Neck muscles that can be damaged by a whiplash injury include the longus colli muscle (which stretches vertically from jaw to collarbone), the platysma muscle (a wide, butterfly-shaped muscle extending from shoulders to jaw), the SCM or sternocleidomastoid muscle (which reaches diagonally from the back of the skull toward the inner corners of the collarbones), and the middle/posterior/anterior scalene muscles (which are clustered toward the back of the neck).
  • Ligaments — Ligaments are tough, short strips of connective tissue that link bones or joints together. Two types of ligaments can be damaged by a whiplash injury: thumbnail-sized facet capsules, which are part of the cervical spine, and the anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL).

Don’t Ignore These Common Symptoms of Whiplash Neck Injuries

It probably goes without saying that neck pain is the major symptom of whiplash. The pain may radiate from the point of injury out toward your shoulders and lower back.  Pain may be immediate after the accident, but often takes a few hours or even days to develop.  It is not uncommon for the pain to intensify during the first 24 hours of the injury.

Pain is the primary, but not the only, consequence of a whiplash injury.  Whiplash can also cause many other symptoms, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia caused by pain
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion in the neck, possibly extending to the upper shoulders
  • Tingling

Some symptoms of whiplash are surprising.  For example, some people experience symptoms like blurred vision and/or tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition in which the patient hears sounds — typically high-pitched ringing, but also crackling, hissing, roaring, or static — even when they are in a completely soundless environment.

How is Whiplash Treated? What’s the Prognosis?

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If you think you may be suffering from whiplash, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.  Without proper treatment, the condition can become aggravated, which will merely prolong your recovery time.  Additionally, the same car or truck accident that caused your whiplash may have also given you a concussion, caused a bone fracture, or caused other serious injuries.  The sooner you can see a doctor following a car accident, the better.

In the meantime, you can take some simple steps at home to help reduce your discomfort and speed up the healing process:

  • Apply an ice pack to the injured area for short periods (about 15 minutes) once every few hours during the first 48 hours. This will help keep swelling to a minimum.
  • Avoid overexerting yourself while the injury is still healing. If possible, you should avoid exercise, heavy lifting, and any other activity that places a strain on your neck muscles.
  • Buy a foam cervical collar to help provide support and stability. They are usually available at drug stores like Rite Aid and CVS for about $15.
  • Get plenty of sleep, good nutrition, and remember to stay hydrated. This will help keep your immune system in top condition so that you can heal faster.
  • Try a hot soak in your tub or shower. Heat can help stiff, knotted muscles relax.

Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor may treat your whiplash by:

  • Prescribing medication to alleviate the pain, such as muscle relaxers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), or benzodiazepines like Valium.
  • Directing you to perform certain stretches or exercises. While it’s important not to overtax your neck while it is still healing, you will need to strengthen your neck muscles once an appropriate amount of time has passed.  Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you exactly when and how you should exercise to improve whiplash pain.
  • Recommending that you try alternative treatment methods in addition to conventional medication, such as acupuncture or massage.

Contact a Utah Car Accident Attorney of Overson Law Today to Look Into Your Injury Case

Depending on the severity of the car accident injury and the success of the treatment methods prescribed, whiplash may take anywhere from several weeks to several months to heal.  Few patients experience pain lasting for longer than six months to a year.

If you think you’re suffering from a whiplash injury, you may be entitled to compensation.  Call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 to set up a free legal consultation with one of our Utah personal injury lawyers today.

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