What is whiplash?

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If you've ever gotten rear-ended in a car collision, you may have experienced the head and neck pain commonly known as whiplash. Although lawyers typically refer to this injury as a cervical strain, neck strain or myofascial injury, the term refers to a range of symptoms that hurt from the shoulders up.

What causes whiplash?


Rear-end collisions, as well as many other car, truck and bicycle accidents, can cause whiplash. Other common causes include:

• contact sports such as football, hockey and soccer

• intentional assaults such as a strong shove from behind

• skiing and snowboarding accidents

• repetitive stress injuries at work

• child abuse (shaken baby syndrome for example)

slip and fall accidents

What are some common whiplash symptoms?

A literal pain in the neck is the most obvious whiplash symptom. Others include:

• headache

• dizziness

• blurred vision

• shoulder, arm or back pain

• unusual burning, prickling or tingling sensations in the arms or shoulders

• sleep disturbance, fatigue, or trouble concentrating

I was in an accident but my neck doesn't hurt. Am I in the clear?

In a word, no. Many times, whiplash symptoms don't appear for a few days or more after the accident. That why even if you feel fine, get medical attention right away-as soon after the accident as possible.

If your accident ended with a trip to the emergency room, seek immediate medical attention if you experience new or worsening symptoms. Head and neck injuries can lead to serious, potentially chronic, health problems if not treated quickly.

My neck still hurts. Will this whiphlash ever go away?

Depending on the severity of your injuries, whiplash can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal. Once the worst of the pain subsides, your doctor may give you light stretching exercises to help improve mobility. Other treatments that may help include:

• Massage

• Chiropractic care

• Ice or heat therapy

• Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Aleve.

I got whiplash in an accident. Can I sue?

Possibly. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the severity of your injuries, you may have a claim. Keep an accurate record of the accident. File a police report. Keep all documentation from any medical treatment you receive. It's also a good idea to start a journal to log your symptoms, as soft-tissue injuries change each day. You might feel fine on Tuesday, only to wake up Thursday with a mysterious new pain in your ribs.

As soon as you're physically able, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. Make sure to do this before talking with insurance companies.

Neck strain, aka whiplash, is a frustrating but treatable injury. Take care of your health first, and, if necessary, let your lawyer take care of the rest.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Weisgerber, Flickr

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
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Oakland, CA 94612

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