What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is sometimes portrayed as a “made up” injury claimed by some people as a way to get money when they have been in an accident, but are not really injured. The fact is, whiplash is a violent, painful, often debilitating injury.

Whiplash injuries commonly occur when a person’s head is violently forced in a direction during a motor vehicle collision.  In a rear collision, a person’s neck may hyperextend backwards, as the seat is thrust forward by the impact of the collision. This causes the person’s cervical spine to rapidly move out of its normal “c” shape through an unnatural “s” shape. The rapid motion of the head and spine seems a bit like the snap of a whip – hence the common term “whiplash.”

The Physics of Whiplash

The physics involved in whiplash start with the potentially thousands of pounds of force exerted on the struck vehicle and the person inside. This force will have a tendency to cause the person’s head to move toward the force (such as backwards with a rear collision).  When this happens, both the lower and upper parts of the cervical spine can extend beyond the natural range of motion.  As this unnatural stretching becomes greater, force is quickly built, and the neck muscles, ligaments, and cervical spine all act to cause the neck to “whip” back in the opposite direction to put the neck into the correct position.  The damage to the muscles, ligaments, and other parts of the neck during this process are the whiplash injuries.

Whiplash Symptoms

Whiplash symptoms can include:

  • Neck and shoulder pain,
  • Headaches,
  • Dizziness,
  • Fatigue,
  • Jaw pain,
  • Arm pain and weakness,
  • Visual disturbance,
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and
  • Back pain.[1]

Whiplash symptoms can persist for months, sometimes even years, and can cause real difficulty in the performance of routine daily activities. Sufferers often report problems with almost any activity that requires turning the head or holding it in a sustained position such as driving, working at a computer, standing at the sink to wash dishes, sleeping comfortably at night, and even getting dressed in the morning.

Treatment

Approaches to treatment vary. Mild cases may respond to home remedies such as ice and heat, stretching exercises, and over-the-counter pain relievers, but if symptoms persist, many sufferers require physical therapy or chiropractic treatments, prescription medications, and pain injections. While immobilization through soft cervical collars formerly was the recommended treatment, more recent studies show that motion exercises can be a more effective treatment, and that immobilization can be detrimental.[2] Some patients with severe chronic whiplash pain undergo a procedure to permanently deaden specific nerves in the neck to gain relief.

How Our Firm Helps

As Arizona whiplash attorneys, we represent those who have sustained whiplash and other injuries in vehicle collisions.  Whiplash is real, painful, and debilitating.  If you’ve been injured, we will seek to obtain for you full and fair compensation for all injuries you sustained.


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