Most people have heard of whiplash, but few actually know exactly what it is and how severe it can be. Essentially, whiplash is the stretching of the ligaments in the head, neck and shoulders. In medical terms, this is called “hyperextension” or is often referred to as a “sprain”. The most common cause of whiplash is after a road traffic collision, when the seatbelt keeps your body still, but your head is thrown forward.
In most cases, whiplash only lasts for a few weeks or months. However, around 15% to 20% of people who suffer whiplash go on to experience long-term chronic pain. In addition, even if symptoms of whiplash do stop, it doesn’t mean the head or neck ligaments are fully repaired and even a small jolt could bring on the symptoms again.
Causes and symptoms
If you are involved in a road traffic collision, or experience another sudden jolt, you could be at risk of whiplash. It doesn’t matter how fast you were going at the time, as whiplash can occur even at slow speeds. In addition, you may not realise you have suffered whiplash straightaway, as it can sometimes take weeks before the symptoms begin.
The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness, tenderness, and reduction in movement. Some people also suffer from numbness or pins and needles in the arms and hands, headaches, muscle spasms, dizziness, vision problems and vertigo. Furthermore, whiplash can also induce insomnia and even cause depression and irritability due to the pain.
Most cases of whiplash are diagnosed by physical examination, but you may need to undergo a scan. Treatment will vary depending on the severity of whiplash. While painful, in most cases, whiplash should clear up on its own, requiring limited intervention. You may have to undergo physical therapy if the whiplash is severe, and you may be administered painkillers. In chronic cases of whiplash, the neck may suffer serious damage so you could require medical interventions such as surgery. It may also require long-term administration of strong painkillers such as codeine.
Because of the severity of whiplash pain, getting redress is important, not only to compensate you for this suffering, but also because in some cases the condition could leave you unable to work, making you financially worse off. If you suffer whiplash after an accident that wasn’t your fault you can make a claim for personal injury. Normally, whiplash claims are dealt with quickly, many ending in out-of-court settlements. If the accident occurred on the road, claims are made against the insurance company of the other driver.
The best way to make a claim for your neck injury is to consult a personal injury solicitor who will guide you through the process. Because the symptoms of whiplash may take a while to become obvious, it is important to always get a person’s insurance details if you have been involved in an accident, even if it is only minor, as you never know if you will develop this debilitating condition.