If you feel severe neck pain after getting in a car accident, you may be experiencing whiplash. While "whiplash" is a nonmedical term, it is widely used to describe damage to the soft tissues of the neck, including ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Whiplash occurs most often in motor vehicle accidents, sporting activities and accidental falls when the person hits his or her head. When a person's neck move beyond its normal range of motion, as commonly happens when someone is in a vehicle that's struck by another car, structures in neck tissue can be easily torn and stretched out of shape.
Symptoms from whiplash include neck pain and swelling, tenderness in the back of the neck, muscle spasms in the neck, and back pain. Depending on the severity of the pain, an emergency room visit might be required. At the emergency room, the doctor will have to go through a series of steps to ensure the injury is not worse than whiplash. The doctor will inspect the head and neck for any external signs of trauma, and then X-rays may be taken of the neck bones to check for fractures or herniated discs in the neck. Additional imaging may be done with a CT or MRI scanner. Whiplash can be treated at home or in a hospital.
All whiplash treatments are designed to relieve pain in the neck and minimize inflammation in the neck tissues. The routine for at home care is to apply ice to the neck for 20 minutes each hour for the first 24 hours while taking acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. If the pain persists, it makes sense to get seen by a chiropractor, family doctor or orthopedist to see what is wrong and what more intensive treatment options are available.
Medical treatment for whiplash ranges from rest and neck massage to complete immobilization and administration of muscle relaxants. The doctor may recommend wearing a soft cervical collar for ambulatory patients and prescribe a series of neck exercises to be begun 72 hours after the injury and designed to restore strength and range of motion.
Whiplash is more than just a painful injury. Trauma to the muscles and ligaments of the neck can cause dizziness, trouble concentrating and stiffness in the back and shoulders. Worse, about 20 percent of victims may never fully recover whiplash.
If you suffered whiplash in an automobile accident caused by a negligent or reckless driver, attorneys with our Virginia Beach, VA-based personal injury law firm may be able to help you.