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How a Whiplash Injury Can Cause Lasting Trauma & Pain 

Posted in Car Accidents on December 3, 2020

If you’re suffering from an accident-related whiplash injury, you’re not alone. Rear-end accidents occur frequently. They often cause the types of neck and back trauma many people recognize as whiplash. National Highway Transportation Association statistics show that rear-end impacts are the most common type of accident nationwide. Out of the 2,175,000 rear-enders reported recently, 594,000 people sustained injuries.

Although some whiplash injuries are mild, others are so serious the trauma never heals completely. Whiplash injuries sometimes become lasting neck and back conditions that cause pain, impairments, and physical changes. The medical costs and lost wages can have a dramatic financial effect on you and your family.

The term “whiplash” is so commonly used, it often underplays the potential seriousness of the injuries it describes. Rear-end impacts vary and each person’s body reacts differently. While physicians often predict that a neck injury will resolve within weeks, that’s often not the case. For some injured auto accident victims, the condition does get better. For others, the symptoms, pain, and physical limitations worsen over time.

How Whiplash Injuries Occur

Whiplash injuries occur because of the way your body experiences a rear-end vehicle impact. In response to the sudden force, the body often responds with a flexion/hyperextension motion. This back-and-forth whip-like movement rapidly stretches your neck backward, then forward. It also flexes and extends the underlying musculoskeletal system and its adjacent structures.

A rear-end impact forces your body to endure a rapid series of movements that you won’t likely experience under any other conditions. Despite the shock to your body, you won’t always feel the injury immediately.

Never Say You’re “Okay”

When someone strikes your vehicle in the rear, it’s important to be cautious during your post-accident interactions. Because neck and back injury symptoms often take time to manifest, you should never say you’re not injured or even that you’re “okay.” A police officer will add your statement to his police report. A witness will include it in any testimony she provides. One way or another, your words will likely end up in a liability claim file.

As insurers already have a whiplash credibility gap, your words will come back to haunt you someday. This often occurs because many whiplash victims don’t feel pain until some time has passed. While claim representatives realize that there’s often a symptom delay, that delay also provides the hint of doubt they need when seeking to diminish your claim value.

Whiplash Symptoms

If you’re familiar with whiplash injuries, you know to expect neck stiffness, pain, headache, and dizziness. Unfortunately, the symptoms are often more complex than that. The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Whiplash Information Page includes a list of additional symptoms some whiplash victims experience.

  • Burning or prickling sensations (paresthesia)
  • Myofascial injuries involving muscles and ligaments
  • Shoulder pain
  • Cognitive issues
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Psychological issues: memory loss, diminished concentration, nervousness, agitation
  • Referred pain (originates in one part of the body, felt in another)
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

Each Whiplash Injury Is Different

When a vehicle rear-ends you, the force your body endures depends on the striking vehicle and its speed at impact. A heavier vehicle moving fast naturally causes a more serious injury than a lightweight vehicle that hits you at a slow speed. Of course, that’s a simplification of the rear-end dynamic. As with any injury, one person’s body reacts differently than someone else’s. No two people sustain the same injury or feel the same pain. While another passenger in your car heals quickly, you might have long-term problems.

Not everyone experiences all the harshest symptoms, but whiplash injuries are rarely simple. In making a diagnosis, doctors often err on the conservative side. In the absence of fractures, open wounds, or visible external trauma, medical personnel typically diagnose whiplash as neck sprain or strain. They understand, however, that the injury is often more complex than these diagnoses suggest. Beyond soft tissue involvement, a typical whiplash injury can affect several other structures.

  • Intervertebral joints
  • Cervical spine
  • Cervical discs
  • Ligaments
  • Cervical muscles
  • Nerve roots

Doctors Change Their Treatment Strategies

Doctors can’t usually predict when you will recover from your whiplash injuries. There are too many factors involved. While one injured person may have immediate symptoms, your discomfort might not begin until hours or days after an accident. While your symptoms may linger and worsen, another person in the same accident could be pain-free and back to work in weeks. Doctors often predict a short recovery. They turn to the simplest treatment choices until your lack of progress dictates more aggressive options.

  • Pain medications
  • Heat therapy
  • Exercise
  • Cervical collar for neck immobilization
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Physical therapy
  • Muscle relaxers

Whiplash Injuries Cause Lasting Pain

Any rear-end impact has the potential to cause a complex system of whiplash symptoms. Sadly, in some people, those symptoms often increase or cause continuing problems that rarely diminish. Often a physician has difficulty finding the right combination of therapies to provide relief. After six to ten weeks, a treating physician usually acknowledges that a neck problem is more serious than anticipated.  As it sometimes turns out, those suffering from long-term pain are often experiencing these and other chronic problems.

  • Disc displacement
  • Disc damage
  • Disc bulging
  • Nerve damage
  • Facet joint pain

Doctors often verify these more complicated conditions with a diagnostic procedure such as a medial branch block, myelogram, discography, or CT Scan. An X-ray can also confirm disc changes and deterioration, such as bulging, cracking, and resultant height loss. Deteriorating neck conditions often require corrective surgery.

Consult With a Personal Injury Attorney

If you’re suffering due to a whiplash injury from a rear-end accident, you need a personal injury attorney to work on your behalf. The Law Offices of John Redmann has offices in Gretna and Metairie, Louisiana. We’ve recovered millions for our injured clients, and we’d like the opportunity to help you.

To schedule a legal consultation, give us a call at 504-500-5000. A legal consultation is a free appointment with an experienced legal professional. You have a chance to tell your story, discuss your injuries, and learn more about options for resolving your case.