Whiplash is one of the most common forms of injury caused by automobile accidents. It generally occurs when a person’s head moves back and forth with a sudden, violent intensity and speed. This action causes the soft tissues in your neck and surrounding your spine to function beyond their regular motion. The intensity of the injury can be both moderate and severe. In most cases, whiplash injuries are observed to have occurred after a rear-end collision.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a general term used to describe neck and spinal injuries that occur as a result of an auto accident. Commonly, whiplash injuries are caused from rear end auto collisions. These types of auto accidents have the greatest risk of injuries to the neck and spinal column. The tendons and ligaments in your neck over-extend their normal functioning range.
This violent motion may cause tearing of the muscle tissue, ligaments or tendons. Whiplash soreness may set in on the day of the car accident or the pain may come at a later time. Oftentimes, whiplash pain may take days, weeks or even months to fully feel. Therefore, it is critical to see a whiplash doctor immediately after you have been involved in a car wreck.
History of Whiplash
Whiplash at one time was called “railway spine”. The first documented case of whiplash was in 1919. Whiplash got its name when cars came onto the scene. The whipping of the neck from getting hit in a rear end accident coined the name whiplash.
Delayed treatment of whiplash injuries can cause long term pain and additional medical treatment. In addition, delayed treatment can damage your personal injury claim. Get the medical treatment you need if you have been injured in a rear end collision. Whiplash injuries can be treated by a qualified car wreck doctor who understands spinal injuries.
Causes of Whiplash
A car accident can cause injuries to bones in the neck and back along with torn or over extended ligaments and tendons. Whiplash is probably the most controversial auto accident injury. The Whiplash injury is called by physicians as “distortion of the cervical spine”. Many years ago, cars did not have headrest. These days every car has a headrest.
Your head at one time would never hit anything in a rear end auto accident. In modern cars your head slams against the headrest when it gets slammed backwards in the collision. This force on your head may not leave any external injuries, but it is possible that you may have suffered some internal head injuries. It is possible for the injuries to include injury to the brain.
In some lethal cases, which are seldom, internal bleeding in the head after an examination has been found, although no external injuries are apparent. A woman is more likely to suffer a whiplash type injury than a man. This may be in part that the man’s neck is stronger.
You can suffer whiplash from doing more than having an accident in a car. Sports, skiing, and airplane accidents are some more causes. The rear end auto accident is the most common. It is not caused by getting hit in the rear in an auto accident; it is caused by your body getting trust forward and then getting slammed back into
Emergency Room for Whiplash
In some cases, patients who experience serious whiplash injuries choose to visit the ER after a car accident. Most hospital Emergency Rooms are designed to diagnose injuries and remedy any immediate medical emergencies. The ER can facilitate X-Rays, MRIs or other imaging services to detect broken or fractured bones. However, most ER’s will require follow up treatment from a qualified Accident Doctor. The Emergency Room is generally not equipped to offer long term medical treatment and rehabilitation for car accident injuries.
What does whiplash feel like?
How do you know if you have whiplash? What does whiplash feel like? Well again, it depends on the intensity of the automobile accident for starters. Additional factors can also include the age and health of the persons involved the direction of impact, types and speeds of vehicles and many other factors. If you suffer from moderate whiplash pain, also known as acute pain, then you are likely to feel the following symptoms which will act as an indication of moderate injury.
- Neck or spinal pain
- Concentration difficulties
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle spasms
- Neck pain
- Pain in the Shoulders and Arms
- Pins and needles sensation
- Visual and auditory symptoms
- Stiffness or lack of motion
- Numbness or tingling sensation in arms/hands/legs
- Feeling sluggish
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive problems
There are also some less common problems that also are diagnosed to be symptoms of whiplash.
- Memory issues
- Inability to focus
- Chronic pain around the neck
Watch for these Whiplash Symptoms
If you have never been involved in a car accident, especially a rear end collision, then you may not know what to expect. There are many car accident injuries that are similar to whiplash. However, you should never delay medical treatment after any car accident. Even minor symptoms such as pain or stiffness can lead to life changing medical conditions if left untreated. Regardless of the injury, please seek immediate medical attention for any of the following symptoms:
- Lasting pain or stiffness in the neck, spine or back. Pay attention if the pain worsens over time.
- You can have stiffness, tingling or numbness in your shoulders, arms or legs.
- Headaches that don’t go away or get worse over time.
- Weakness or lack of energy
- Nausea, memory loss, dizziness or vomiting
Some more less common symptoms
Less common whiplash symptoms may be memory loss, loss of concentration or a reduction in mental awareness. You should consult a doctor immediately following a whiplash injury. Seeing a doctor after you have been involved in a car accident an exhibit these symptoms immediately may prevent the chances of a long recovery.
An accident victim should seek out medical treatment immediately if they feel pain at the scene of the car accident. If no pain is felt, one should still see a doctor just to make sure that there are no hidden injuries. Even bruising could lead to more extensive injuries. An accident doctor can determine the extent of your injuries and create a program for which to heal the body.
A doctor may recommend taking over the counter mild pain relievers or ibuprofen to aid in reduction of swelling and reduce the pressure. An accident doctor will do X-rays, but may order an MRI, or a CT scan to properly determine the extent of your injuries. A doctor’s goal in treatment of whiplash is to reduce the pain associated with it.
Accident doctors want to restore function to the neck, back and shoulders. Proper healing occurs when pain is minimized. You should get plenty of rest and stay hydrated throughout the healing process.
Why patients hesitate to get medical treatment for whiplash
Some patients attempt to avoid medical treatment for whiplash injuries. They believe that whiplash injuries are not serious and will simply go away over time. This is possibly the worst choice you can make when dealing with whiplash injuries. Delayed treatment can lead to unnecessary surgery, elevated and lasting pain, stiffness, and increased medical bills.
Many patients have a tendency to underestimate their whiplash injuries. Pain onset from whiplash can take days or even weeks to feel, which makes it easy to disregard. The general misunderstanding is that whiplash is only stiffness or neck pain. Whiplash is a general term used to describe a number of spinal injuries. Stiffness and neck pain is generally a sign of deeper tissue or spinal damage.
Types of doctors that treat whiplash
- Medical Doctor
- Primary Care Physician
- Physical Therapist
Not all of these Doctors can or will treat whiplash injuries after a car accident. For example, most PCPs will not treat auto accident injuries. It’s not that your family doctor doesn’t want to treat collision injuries, they simply cannot bill through the insurance company.
Car Accident injuries require a Doctor who can bill through third party billing, PIP, No Fault, auto insurance or a letter of protection from an attorney. Most, if not all, family doctors cannot bill through third party billing or auto insurance. Therefore, you must seek out a qualified Accident Doctor who is able to bill through auto insurance, Med Pay, PIP or LOP.
Why won’t my Primary Care Physician see me for Whiplash
When you try to make an appointment with your PCP and tell them you have been in auto accident, in most cases the Doctor will tell you that they don’t treat auto accident patients. Of course, your Family PCP would treat the injuries if possible, but they are unable due to the billing practices.
Third party billing is the term generally used for automobile accidents. Third party billing includes: Auto Insurance such as Geico or Progressive, PIP, No Fault and LOP or Letter of Protection from an attorney. Health Insurance is not included in third party billing, which is why your PCP is unable to treat your injuries.
The main reason that you should not use health insurance for car accident injuries is that your claim could be denied. Your Health Insurer will claim that your injuries are due to the car accident, which is covered by auto insurance or other third party billing.
Secondly, you will most likely be forced make co-payments for treatment under your health insurance. If your medical claim is denied, then you could be held liable for the unpaid medical bills, which is another reason not to use health insurance for car accident injuries.
There are people in the medical and legal industry who discount Chiropractic care for whiplash injuries. However, Chiropractic Care is one of the few options that use hands on therapy and muscle manipulation. While Medical Doctors can prescribe medications, Chiropractors use their hands to separate pain from injury, reduce swelling and manage spinal adjustment. In addition, Chiropractors utilize ultrasound, traction and other devices to encourage healing after a car accident.
Many whiplash patients feel pain in the neck and shoulders. This pain could be very noticeable or less severe. However, in many cases Chiropractic Care is used to locate the source of pain not just treat the outward signs. Hands on treatment allows Chiropractors to treat the spine, joints and muscles surrounding the neck. In addition, many whiplash injuries can take days or even weeks to feel. Don’t delay treatment for whiplash injuries. Delayed medical treatment can lead to higher medical bills, longer recovery and increased pain and suffering.
How will a Chiropractor check for Whiplash?
If you go to a chiropractor complaining of neck pain after an auto accident, you will probably undergo a number of tests to determine if you have whiplash. Chiropractors will generally examine the entire spine, not just your neck or shoulders.
What a Chiropractor will check for:
- Disc Injury or trauma
- Restricted movement
- Joint injuries
- Muscle spasms
- Ligament injuries
- Tenderness and tightness
- Spinal Alignment
- They may analyze the way you walk
In addition to checking the above, a chiropractor may want to order an MRI and/or XRAYS of your spine. Imaging can help to determine if you had any degenerative changes that may have existed before you had the auto accident. It is extremely important in any auto accident injury case to determine what was pre-existing and what was caused by the accident.
Insurance companies may argue that your whiplash injuries were pre-existing, which puts the proof of injury on your Chiropractor. Your Chiropractor must ensure that he or she has documented any pre-existing injuries or conditions. Based on this analysis, your Chiropractor can then develop the best treatment plan for your injuries.
Treatments for Whiplash injuries
If you are suffering from moderate or lower level of whiplash, here are some home remedies that you can try out. However, these remedies alone won’t have a long-term effect on your pain; they can only provide a temporary relaxation or relief. For permanent treatment, you should seek for a proper medical treatment from an accident doctor.
Home treatments for Whiplash are as follows:
When you suffer neck pain, it is advisable to do regular icing for about 10 to 15 mins. Avoid direct contact of the ice with the painful areas.
Use a neck brace, or a collar. This will add support to your neck. However, again it is advisable to use it by recommendation of a doctor. The use of neck braces and collars have diminished over the years.
Foam collars were once used quite often for injuries resulting from auto accidents. They are usually not recommended anymore. Foam collars immobilize the neck. When you immobilize the neck it can lead to decreased muscle and strength in the neck, it can also impair the recovery process. Wearing a foam collar temporally and not for extended periods of time could help you sleep better with a whiplash injury.
Give the painful area of the neck a moist condition such as a hot cloth or thermal treatment. You may also try a hot bath or shower. Try to support the neck as much as possible.
If you suffer from chronic neck pain, then you should seek immediate medical attention. The doctor will first advise you to have X-rays to make sure that the pain you are experiencing is due to whiplash and that the neck pain is not connected to any other part of your body. Then a proper treatment of whiplash begins.
Treatment Stages for Whiplash
If you have whiplash injuries after an auto accident, your doctor’s first concern is reducing neck inflammation. Inflammation can be controlled in a number of ways from ice packs to ultrasound treatment. Chiropractors oftentimes utilize ultrasound immediately following an automobile accident to help reduce swelling and encourage function.
A chiropractor may recommend an ice pack to be applied to your neck at various times during the day, which will reduce inflammation and pain. After the inflammation has been reduced, you will generally undergo manual, hands on therapy to test range of motion and damage.
Chiropractic Adjustments for Whiplash
The severity of your whiplash injuries will determine the type of treatment you need. Your chiropractor will develop a comprehensive treatment plan. A common whiplash treatment plan may include the following:
- flexion-distraction: This is hands on technique that uses non-trusting motion for more of a slow, pumping action.
- instrument-assisted: Using a specialized hand-held instrument, the chiropractor applies force without thrusting into the spine. This type of treatment is used commonly on older patients who have degenerative joints.
- specific spinal manipulation: Gentle thrusting technique that is used to restore motion to joints and tendons. This motion also stretches soft tissue to restore motion to the spine and affected areas.
- instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy: This is performed by an instrument that performs repeating strokes over the injured area also known as the Graston Technique.
- therapeutic massage: hands-on therapeutic massage to ease muscle tension in the neck, back or shoulders.
- trigger point therapy: putting direct pressure on these specific points to alleviate muscle tension.
- interferential electrical stimulation: low frequency electrical current to help stimulate muscles, which can ultimately reduce inflammation.
- ultrasound: This helps decrease muscle spasms, swelling, stiffness, and pain in the neck. Ultrasound does this by sending sound waves deep into muscle tissues. This creates a gentle heat that increases circulation.
How long will Whiplash pain last?
There is no specified time that whiplash injuries can take to heal. Whiplash injuries depend on the intensity, direction and speed of the impact. In addition, the health, age, and weight of the victims can affect the extent of whiplash injuries. Regardless of the speed of impact or extent of damage to your vehicle, you should see a doctor treatment for neck injuries. Whiplash injuries have led to surgeries that could have been prevented by seeing a doctor.
Tearing of the neck muscles and tendons can lead to lasting pain. If left untreated, spinal misalignment can go unchecked and lead to long term pain and possible surgery. Additionally, spinal misalignment can increase strain on other areas of the body, increasing the possibility of additional injury.
How long will it take me to recover?
Recovering from the symptoms of whiplash could take weeks, or maybe months. Seeing a doctor immediately following your accident improves your recovery time. Your recovery time might be shorter if you are younger. Studies have proven that the mental state of the victim has an impact on recovering from whiplash.
Modern day therapy includes physiotherapy, exercise, and chiropractic therapy, which has been found to be very effective in recovering from symptoms.
How quickly someone recovers from whiplash depends on a variety of factors. Your accident doctor is best to determine this since it’s usually on a case by case basis. Physical condition, age, extent of injury all plays a role in the recovery process.
Can Whiplash Be Prevented
Airbags protect us from front, and side impacts. The headrest that people never really even think about adjusting protects us, or limits our injury from being hit in the rear. The majority of people driving today on America’s highways don’t even think about adjusting the headrest. A good headrest will have adjustments that will allow it to move forward, tilt, and go up and down.
Headrests are something that we usually never even consider when purchasing a new car. It’s important to adjust your headrest so in the event of a collision, you can limit to movement of your neck. We are not saying you won’t be injured, but a well adjusted headrest will certainly limit or eliminate your whiplash injury.
Riding with your seat reclined, think again!
A lot of young people will ride with their seats reclined back. You ever wondered what would happen to these people if they had an accident. Seating position in your car is important as well as the adjustment of your headrest. Your seat really should not be reclined more than 15 degrees. Your headrest should almost touch the back of your head. If your headrest is adjusted any further back from your head, it may not be as effective.
Your headrest is more effective the closer it is to the back of your head. Make sure the top of the headrest is even with the top of your head with you sitting in the seat. Could you imagine what would happen to your neck if your headrest was adjusted to low? You don’t want to allow your head to whip over the top of the headrest, this could cause further injury.
“The goal is for you to hit the airbag, not for the airbag to hit you”
Airbags come in every new car sold in the United States. Airbags are located in various places in a vehicle. They usually are in the steering wheel, passenger side dash area; they may be in the sides of the trim panels. Airbags work in conjunction with seat belts to prevent injuries. Adjusting your seat so that your chest is what would hit the airbag instead of your head is important as well.
Chest and head are less than 6 inches from the steering wheel?
If your airbag deploys and you are a little too close, several things could happen. Your airbag needs distance to fully expand, if you in to close, it may not do this. You also may suffer from abrasions or airbag burns to your arms or face. Make sure that your seat is far enough away.
Passenger seat airbags have more space to open up and tend to be larger than driver’s side airbags. Make sure your passengers are seated away from the area the air bag would deploy. Have you ever seen the warning labels with, age, and weight requirements for people seating in the passenger front seat?
Passengers who ride with their feet out the window or on the dash.
I have personally seen people do this. They hang their feet out the window and rest them on the mirror. I have seen people rest their feet on the dashboard reading a book on a long trip. How do you think they are going to fare when they are involved in a head on collision. It is highly likely if you have your feet on the dash and are hit head on, you are going to have severe injuries from the collision as well as air bag deployment.
What can you do to prevent whiplash or injury in an auto accident
- Adjust your headrest properly
- Adjust your seat correctly
- Wear your seat belt
- As the driver you are responsible for your passengers safety, make sure they buckle up
The earlier you are able to diagnose the symptoms of whiplash, the earlier you can look for treatments, and the earlier you can feel better. The longer you wait, the more severe your pain levels may get. Make sure to see a doctor who can properly treat whiplash.