The term whiplash refers to a neck injury where the head moves in one direction and then another quickly and sometimes violently. This is similar to the motion of a whip. Basically, this motion can rip the ligaments that protect and support the vertebrae running through the neck. It can also strain the muscles and tendons in the neck. In more severe instances, the event could even herniate, dislocate or fracture vertebrae.
Whiplash symptoms are not evident immediately in most cases. Within a couple days, however, the victim may feel stiffness or pain in the neck, and attempting to turn the head can sometimes make these worse. Other symptoms can accompany these, such as nausea, headache, dizziness, blurred vision and even difficulty swallowing. Most of the symptoms are temporary, but they may be signs of additional problems in the future.
A health care professional can treat most whiplash-related injuries early on to prevent it from becoming worse, but some severe cases could require years of treatment and even cervical traction or surgery. Most whiplash victims recover within three months, and some can recover in just a couple of weeks. Leaving even a minor whiplash injury untreated could increase future susceptibility to additional back and neck injuries, so seeking treatment early is a key to proper recovery.
Anybody who experienced whiplash as the result of a car accident may wish to contact a personal injury attorney before agreeing to a settlement with the insurance company. The injured person could receive compensation for medical expenses along with continuing care costs, such as physical therapy. The victim could even receive additional funds for pain and suffering in some situations.
Source: American Chiropractic Association, "Whiplash", accessed on Jan. 31, 2015