When neck pain, stiffness and headaches remain after a car accident
Florida saw 395,785 motor vehicle accidents in 2016. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries from a car crash. Looking at past data, we can see that neck injuries made up almost a quarter of all car accident-related payouts: a staggering $8.8 billion in claims nationally.
When you have been in a car accident – even a small one – a neck injury is a distinct possibility, if not a given. Even a 30 mile-per-hour crash can do significant damage, as this calculation illustrates. An accident at that speed is equal to 1.6 tons of force on a 160-pound person wearing a seatbelt. Without a seatbelt, the amount of force rockets up to 12 tons of force.
Let’s talk about what whiplash is, how to treat it and how drivers can protect themselves from this common car accident injury.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is an invisible injury. This means that if someone observes you, it’s very difficult for them to know you are in pain.
Both whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) occur during car accidents when the head is jolted front to back or side to side. A vehicle hitting yours results in tremendous force that throws your head forward while your body remains in place (if you are wearing a seatbelt). This results in soft tissue spraining or tearing. Not surprisingly, this condition is most common after a rear-end car accident.
Common symptoms include:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness in the neck and shoulders
- Jaw stiffness and soreness
- Arm pain or weakness (this indicates a pinched nerve in your neck)
- Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
How is whiplash diagnosed?
This condition is difficult to diagnose because it cannot be seen on an X-Ray or MRI; your doctor will likely just ask you what symptoms you are experiencing and diagnose whiplash based on that.
Additionally, many people do not feel symptoms until days or weeks after the accident. This is why it is always important to meet with your doctor right after an accident, even if you feel fine. If you try to document your physical symptoms later, defense attorneys will point out the gap between the accident and treatment. They will blame your symptoms on an intervening something in that space of time.
Best ways to treat whiplash
Treatment will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and how long you have had them. For a long time, whiplash patients were told to wear soft cervical collars to decrease the neck’s range of motion and allow it to rest; clinical studies now indicate this does more harm than good. It could actually slow the process of healing.
It is better to keep the neck as fluid as possible. Canadian researchers learned that people with whiplash who ceased physical activity healed slower than those who used a combination of activity, gentle stretching and periods of rest with a cervical collar. Too much rest and immobilization actually results in more stiffness and pain. It can also lead to atrophy of the neck muscles.
This is why range-of-motion exercises are so beneficial to whiplash patients. However, these should not be done unless your doctor approves of an exercise plan.
Your health care professional might also suggest a physical therapist or chiropractor. Physical therapists help to retrain and strengthen your body, and some can also use soft-tissue mobilization to treat your condition. A chiropractor will perform spinal manipulation to move your bones and joints into the correct alignment. According to a Consumer Reports survey, almost 90% of patients found chiropractic spinal manipulation to be helpful and an alternative to traditional treatment.
Aside from that, your doctor might suggest massage therapy, mild exercise or trigger point injections. These seek out knots of pain that collect at “trigger points,” or areas of inflammation, and inject medication with a tiny needle. Relief might only last a few days, though it can last for months.
When to hire a lawyer in Florida for whiplash
If your neck pain does not improve despite visiting a health care professional, you might want to think about pursuing a claim. Once you have a medical diagnosis, you should start the legal process as soon as you can and leave nothing to chance. Florida gives you four years to file an accident for personal injury, but that does not mean you should procrastinate until the very end of that fourth year. Contact me today if you need a Florida attorney to help you with your whiplash claim.