Whiplash Is a Serious – and Incurable – Condition

Whiplash Is a Serious – and Incurable – ConditionYou’re nearing the end of your ride on your favorite roller coaster. Your hair is blowing in the breeze as your car pulls back into the station. Everyone is grinning ear-to-ear, hearts pounding, and then – WHAM! The brakes engage and your upper body is hurled forward. The seatbelt catches you and slams you back in your seat.

The same thing happens to your body in a car accident, just with a lot more intensity. Your neck is particularly vulnerable to the impact when your body and head are flung forward and then violently ricochet back. Neck and back injuries are some of the most common results of vehicular accidents. Whiplash is a specific type of neck strain caused by an injury or trauma. Whiplash can be the result of incidents such as physical violence, a sports injury, or an accident such as a car crash. It’s a far more serious injury than it gets credit for being, given that it’s an incurable condition.

Some factors can make neck injuries like whiplash more likely for certain people or in certain types of accidents. If someone has a job that is mostly sedentary and repetitive, they probably were stiff before the accident. Being stiff at the time of the accident increases a person’s chance of getting whiplash. If you are hit from behind, you’re also more likely to sustain a neck injury. This is particularly true when your car is stopped at the time of the accident. It doesn’t even need to be a high-speed event. You can even get whiplash if the car or both cars are traveling at low speeds.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Common symptoms of whiplash include head, back, and neck pain; muscle and tissue soreness and stiffness; and difficulty moving or turning your neck. You may also experience dizziness, blurry vision (or other problems with sight), a tingling sensation in your body, and a ringing in your ears, which is also known as tinnitus.

Some lesser-known symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, and trouble with swallowing. Some people may also experience jaw pain and even develop TMJ, which is a disorder of the joints and muscles of your jaw. TMJ can cause your jaw to pop or click. You may also suffer from a new-found difficulty in opening your jaw, making eating and drinking a bit of a challenge. TMJ can lead to even more tangential body aches and pains such as migraines and headaches, toothaches, and earaches.

The most severe cases of whiplash, however, could potentially cause spinal cord damage. Remember: the forces on your neck are strong, and they can potentially break your cervical vertebrae.

The Quebec Classification of Whiplash-Associated Disorders

Like burn injuries, whiplash injuries are graded on a scale based on their severity. Per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Grade 0: No injury.
  • Grade 1: Pain only.
  • Grade 2: Pain plus signs of injury.
  • Grade 3: Pain plus signs of injury and neurological effects.
  • Grade 4: Severe pain and signs of serious or dangerous neurological effects.

A grade 3 or 4 whiplash disorder can include all of the symptoms we listed above, plus neurological symptoms. Depending on the severity, you may suffer permanent nerve damage.

It’s vital that you get your head, spine, and neck checked after a car accident. Even if you don’t feel injured at the time, you may experience the onset of one or more of these symptoms in a few hours or even a few days. In addition to medical expertise, it’s important to have a legal consultation. An Oklahoma City spinal cord injury lawyer will be able to let you know what your legal options are.

What are the long-term effects of whiplash?

Not every case of whiplash resolves with treatments. According to a medical study published in the journal Injury, 43% of people “will suffer long-term symptoms following ‘whiplash’ injury.”

A study published in the medical journal Spine looked at whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) in patients over a 20-year period. A greater percentage of the WAD patients presented with significant long-term symptoms compared to their peers without WAD. Seventy-two percent of the WAD cohort still had shoulder stiffness after 20 years (vs. 45.9% of the non-WAD control group). The WAD group had more headaches (24.0% vs. 12.2%) and arm pain as well (13.3% vs. 3.9%).

Long-term symptoms generally mimic the original injuries. Long-haul whiplash sufferers may experience new debilitating conditions as well. These can include spinal misalignment, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and degenerative disc disease.

Lifestyle choices have an impact on the long-term effects of whiplash. Another study, published in the Journal of Orthopaedics, Trauma, and Rehabilitation, found that smoking had a “significant worsening effect on the severity of the symptoms” in people who scored high in a whiplash disability questionnaire.

What is the treatment for whiplash?

Minor cases of whiplash often respond quite well to routine treatment. It’s best to seek treatment, even for minor cases of whiplash, to prevent further complications later on. Your doctor will probably want you to take it easy for a while. They may even recommend a brief period of bed rest. You might also want to try some heat therapy, such as applying a warm compress or taking a hot shower. Cold treatments can also be effective, depending on the injury. Cold can reduce swelling and also numb some types of pain.

But these treatments will not be enough for a serious whiplash disorder. Victims who sustain anything from a grade 2 injury or above may undergo radiofrequency (RF) nerve ablation or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy to address the pain. Some may need surgery. If the force of the collision was strong enough to damage the spinal cord itself, victims may be rendered partially to totally paralyzed, which comes with its own set of medical treatments.

What to do if you’re injured in a car accident in Oklahoma City

If you’re reading this and wondering, “I’ve been in a car accident; what should I do?” the answer is you need to line up the best medical and legal advice that you can.

An experienced Oklahoma City car accident lawyer can help you understand your options if you think you have whiplash or another symptom. Cunningham & Mears can also assist you with any type of personal injury claim.

Not sure what type of claim you have? No problem. Our lawyers will listen to your story and determine the best course of action for you. Contact us or call now to hear more about our services in Oklahoma City and beyond.