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Common Car Accident Injuries: Understanding Whiplash

Neck InjuryIn most rear-end car accidents, there is a sudden jolt as the vehicles collide. The occupants of the leading car—which is often stopped or moving at slow speed—may be thrown forward against their seat belts as a result of the crash. Their heads, however, are often not as quick to move forward, resulting instead in a sharp backward motion of the head followed by a bounce forward. Under such conditions, it is not uncommon for a person to suffer whiplash, which can lead to long-term pain and complications.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a relatively common neck injury that occurs as the result of a sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes a person’s head to jerk forward and backward quickly. Medical professionals consider whiplash a type of neck strain which is caused by damage to the muscles and tendons, but many people use the term “whiplash” in reference to structural bone damage as well. Pain is the primary symptom of whiplash but others include:

  • Decreased range of motion or neck tightness;
  • Pain while moving the head side to side or forward and backward;
  • Discomfort and stiffness when rotating the head toward each shoulder; and
  • Headaches that start of the base of the skull and radiate up and forward.

Other symptoms such as dizziness, trouble concentrating or talking, nausea, or sleepiness may be signs of a concussion, a potentially more serious injury.

Check With a Doctor

If you were recently involved in a car accident and you feel pain when you move your head, it is best to err on the side of caution and see a doctor. Your doctor may take x-rays or CT scans to rule out other concerns, but it is important to have your injuries documented in case you need to file a personal injury claim. Depending on the severity of your whiplash, there is good chance that your doctor will recommend over the counter painkillers, though stronger medication may be necessary.

For the first two to three days, apply ice to your neck for 15 to 20 minutes several times per day to prevent and reduce swelling. After several days, you can switch to moist heat, such as warm damp towels or a hot bath. Massage and ultrasound therapy can also provide some relief.

Long-Term Complications

It is extremely important to allow your neck to heal properly. Pushing too hard too fast could result in chronic neck pain and discomfort that follows you for the rest of your life. Your doctor may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises, but be sure to follow his or her instructions carefully. What feels fine today could be extremely painful tomorrow and cause even more damage to an extremely sensitive part of your body.

Seek Legal Help

A head or neck injury can complicate your life, and if your whiplash was caused by someone else’s negligence, we can assist you in collecting the compensation you deserve. Contact an experienced San Jose personal injury attorney to discuss your case and to learn about your available options. Call (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation today.

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