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Whiplash Symptoms

If you think you may be experiencing whiplash symptoms, you must be made aware that reading this article is no substitute for seeking professional medical treatment at the first possible moment.

The medical information used in this article is compiled from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), NHS, MayoClinic, NetDoctor, eMedicineHealth and Medicinenet websites.

Introduction to Whiplash Symptoms: What is Whiplash?

When an individual experiences whiplash, they usually suffer the most common whiplash symptoms a few days after the accident in which they sustained their injuries occurs. Whiplash is a fairly common injury that affects the individual’s neck after an abrupt acceleration-deceleration force, most frequently occurring in motor vehicle accidents, though also possible to sustain in sporting accidents, physical assault or accidental falls. The term “whiplash” refers to when both the bone structures and soft tissues are damaged. Whiplash is generally not a life threatening injury, although it can lead to a protracted period of partial disability and when caused in an accident for which the victim was not to blame, a compensation claim for the whiplash injury may be made.

Symptoms of Whiplash after a Car Accident

The most common whiplash symptoms, listed below, may take 24 hours or longer to manifest. Immediately following the accident, however, you may experience dizziness, blurred vision, pain in either or both arms or shoulder pain or tingling/weakness of arms or legs.

The most common symptoms of whiplash are:-

  • Stiffness and tenderness in the neck
  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty moving neck around
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness in the back of the head
  • Muscle spasms (side or back of neck)
  • Shooting pain from neck to shoulder or arms
  • Referred pain to the shoulders or arms
  • Sensory disturbance (for example, pins and needles in the arms and legs)
  • Increased fatigue

If you have symptoms of whiplash, you should visit a doctor at the first moment possible because there may be related injuries that only a doctor can recognise.

More Severe Symptoms

In severe and chronic cases of what is known as “whiplash associated disorder” symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Social isolation
  • Drug dependency
  • Sleep disturbance (insomnia)
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome

Additionally, a very small number of people contract continuous whiplash symptoms which can lead to ‘whiplash syndrome’. They suffer constant headaches and pain, reduced movement at the back of the neck, lumbar pains, tingling in the arms, fatigue, sleep disruptions, and sometimes reduced libido. It is difficult to treat whiplash syndrome and it can persist for months or even years.

Determining Your Whiplash Grade

Different grades of whiplash symptoms (what they call Whiplash-Associated Disorder (WAD)) were published by The Québec Task Force in a report titled “Redefining ‘Whiplash’”.

Grade 1: neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only – no physical signs are noted by the doctor treating the patient

Grade 2: neck complaints and the doctor discovers a restricted range of motion and point tenderness in the neck

Grade 3: neck complaints and neurological signs such as reduced deep tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits

Grade 4: neck complaints and fracture or dislocation, or injury to the spinal cord

These grades are not used in Ireland and are not officially recognised. However, they do give a good indication of the various physical degrees of symptoms of whiplash.

Treating Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash symptoms do not automatically mean that the victim has suffered a whiplash injury and whiplash is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This had given rise to false claims of whiplash compensation with many accident victims attempting to figure out how to fake whiplash symptoms in order to claim a higher compensation settlement.

Symptoms of whiplash which manifest very quickly may actually indicate potentially severe injuries and longer-term complications. People trying to falsify whiplash can be identified by doctors if they claim too many symptoms and by claiming that the symptoms appear too soon after an accident.

There is no single remedy for whiplash symptoms and your doctor alone can establish the correct treatment. However, pain relieving medications have proven effective as have massage, heat, ice, ultrasound and injections, and also physical therapy traction.

Patients of whiplash in the past were often given a cervical collar although more up-to-date methods now encourage early movement rather than immobilisation.

Whiplash: Summary

Whiplash symptoms are obtained when the head jerks suddenly back and forward, hyperextending the muscles and other neck and upper spine soft tissues.

Symptoms of whiplash appear most commonly following car accidents but other accidents can also cause the problem.

It is important that you see a doctor soon as signs of whiplash begin to manifest as the pain may be covering up other injuries.

If your whiplash injuries were sustained in an accident for which you were not to blame and you feel that you may have a genuine and viable claim for compensation, it is recommended that you consult with a solicitor as soon after treatment for your injuries have been administered as possible to determine whether you have a compensation claim that is worth pursuing.

Special Disclaimer:

This article is not a substitute for seeing a medical professional and should not be taken as medical advice. If you experience symptoms of severe whiplash you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Because of the swift changing nature of medical research relating to whiplash symptoms and treatment, cannot be held responsible for the timeliness, accuracy, usefulness, reliability and completeness of the content. You should never self-manage any health problem. You should always heed the advice of a doctor. You should always consult with a doctor as soon as possible if you have experienced any symptoms of whiplash.

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