What is whiplash

Whiplash injury is one of the most common side effects of a road traffic accident. It is caused by the rapid deceleration experienced when a car crashes, which causes the head and neck to jerk violently.
In the case of a road traffic accident, the neck and head are forced forward into hyperextension as a person’s body is held tightly by a seatbelt. As the body recovers the head and neck are then placed in a hyperflexed position.

This movement can cause damage to the soft tissues, such as the muscles, tendons and ligaments which help the neck move. Whiplash is therefore often considered to be similar to a sprain.

Many people are under the impression that whiplash injuries only occur when a car is hit from behind, however the same damage can occur when the head is jerked to the side. In other circumstances whiplash injuries can also be sustained because of rapid acceleration, a fall from a horse or bicycle or a sudden blow to the head sustained when taking part in a contact sport.

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What are the symptoms of whiplash?
For many people the problems associated with whiplash are short term and no not require large amounts of medical treatment. However, for some there are longer term issues.

The most common symptoms of whiplash include headaches and neck pain, including tenderness and stiffness, dizziness, tinnitus and fatigue. Pain can also be experienced in the arms, hands and lower back and in some cases road traffic accident victims experience muscle spasms.

Generally these will subside quickly. However, in more serious cases whiplash injuries can cause problems for a number of months.

Occasionally people who have been involved in a car crash experience whiplash related disorder, which has more serious psychological effects. These include depression, anxiety and stress, as well as sleep disturbance, and can have long-term effects on a person’s life and ability to work.

If this is the case they may consider enlisting the help of a no win, no fee personal injury lawyer to make a road traffic accident claim. Car crash victims who have experienced broken bones, head trauma or a back injury can also make an accident compensation claim.

What treatment will be given for a whiplash injury?

Drivers who have been involved in a road traffic accident will often be assessed for whiplash upon their arrival at hospital.

This will be done through a series of examinations, which may include scans and x-rays to rule out the possibility of broken bones and more serious damage.

Most commonly, the patient is then fitted with a soft neck collar that will stop the neck moving too much but which could cause further aggravation to the whiplash injury. An icepack may also be applied to the affected area and pain killers such as paracetamol can be taken to ease discomfort.

Once the soft tissue has sufficiently recovered doctors may decide to prescribe a number of physical therapy exercises to build up strength. Whiplash injury victims who are suffering from longer term physiological effects may have to go through counselling in order to relieve the symptoms.

Motorists who have been involved in a road traffic accident who believe they are suffering any symptoms of whiplash, but have not been diagnosed with the injury should contact their doctor.

Anyone experiencing the symptoms related to whiplash is advised against driving.

Preventing whiplash injury

In many cases whiplash injuries are unavoidable. However, steps can be taken to reduce the chances of experiencing the problem if a driver is involved in a car accident.

Correctly adjusting the headrest in a vehicle will help prevent the head from moving backwards if a car is hit from behind and this applies to both drivers and passengers.

However, it is difficult to stop the head moving from side to side or forwards.

A headrest which is in the right position should reach the top of a person’s head and be positioned as close to them as possible.

It is also important that the headrest locks to ensure it stays in place in the event of a car accident. More information on correctly adjusting a headrest can be found on the website for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

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