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Whiplash and Neck Pain

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a non-medical term used to describe neck pain following an injury to the soft tissues of your neck (specifically ligaments, tendons, and muscles).  A doctor may use the more specific terms of cervical sprain, cervical strain, or hyperextension injury.  It is caused by an accidental motion or force applied to your neck which results in movement beyond the neck’s normal range of motion.

The most frequent cause of whiplash is a car accident.  Surprisingly, the speed of the cars involved in the accident or the amount of physical damage to the car may not relate to the intensity of neck injury.  Speeds as low as 15 miles per hour can produce enough energy to cause whiplash to a passenger in your car, whether or not they are wearing a seat belt.

Neck pain, swelling, tenderness along the back of your neck, muscle spasms (on the side or back of the neck), difficulty moving your neck around, headache, and pain shooting from your neck into either shoulder or arm are all signs and symptoms that may occur immediately or minutes to hours after the initial injury.  The sooner the injury symptoms develop, the greater the chance of serious damage.

Can Whiplash Be Prevented?

Practical Tip

Just because you were hurt doesn’t mean you are entitled to money.  You must prove that someone else was negligent and that it was their negligence or carelessness which caused your injury.  If you fail to do both, you lose.  If you sue the wrong person, you lose.  If you wait too long to sue, you lose.  If you had an injury BEFORE the accident, then you are entitled to be compensated to the extent your injury is now worse.

Andrew Traub

To minimize the risk of whiplash you should always wear your seat belt and adjust your headrest to the proper height when driving.  The middle of the headrest should be even with the upper tips of your ears.  Seat belts with shoulder harnesses as well as headrests may not reduce the risk of whiplash but should be used in all motor vehicles because they reduce the risk of death and serious injury.


How Long Does Whiplash Last?

Most people recover completely from a whiplash injury in the first 12 weeks.  Others’ symptoms continue to improve over a year.  You have a 40% chance of experiencing some symptoms after 3 months and an 18% chance after 2 years.  A worse outcome has been reported in people with a more rotated or inclined head position at the time of impact injury.  The amount of time that elapses between injury and the onset of your neck symptoms can predict the severity of the injury and your prognosis.  A shorter time signifies a potentially severe injury with more frequent long-term complications. Whiplash injuries can last for years.

Ironically, studies show that seat belts increase the whiplash symptoms in lower-impact crashes due to catching you and throwing your body back while your head is still moving forward. If you are in an automobile accident, it is important to recognize the symptoms of whiplash as soon as they begin to occur and to receive treatment for your pain to better prove your case.

If you were involved in an accident in Texas, we’ll be happy to mail it to you (together with a host of other free stuff.) You can either email us, call us at (512) 343-2572, or fill in the form to the right.

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