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Whiplash: It's causes and symptoms

Out of all our body parts, there's one that is extremely vulnerable to the gravitational forces involved in the typical motor vehicle collision: the neck.

Your neck is delicate compared to the rest of the spine because the bones are smaller and there's a lot more flexibility and range of motion in the neck, causing your head to whip around during a vehicle crash. Essentially, whiplash happens when the bones, muscles, joints and tendons of the neck get stretched, torn and bruised.

More about how whiplash happens

When a motorist gets struck -- especially from behind -- the head and neck will jerk back as a result of the collision. Hopefully, you have a nicely positioned headrest behind your head and neck to support you and soften the blow, but even if you do have a headrest, the jerky motion could send your head and neck back into what's called a "hyperextended" position and then forward into what's called a "hyperflexed" position.

As a result of this extreme movement caused by gravitational force, the neck can experience soft tissue damage to the facet capsules, ligaments and muscles that maintain the structure and form of the neck. In many cases, the whiplash victim doesn't experience any signs or symptoms of suffering an injury immediately following the crash.

The next day, the whiplash victim may begin to feel intense stiffness and radiating pain. It's important to address this pain, take rest and seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

The symptoms of whiplash: How you know you have this kind of injury

Some cases of whiplash are relatively minor and resolve themselves within a week or two. Other cases persist. They can even cause life-long pain and debility if left untreated. Here are the symptoms of a typical whiplash case:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder pain and shoulder stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Neck pain and associated stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness in the arms
  • Pain in the arms
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Disturbances in the vision
  • Ear ringing
  • Pain in the back

In the severest cases of whiplash, seemingly unrelated problems may also arise. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Frustration
  • Elevated stress levels
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Drug addiction to pain medications

Don't ignore your whiplash symptoms

If you have a severe case of whiplash, seek medical attention immediately. You may also want to investigate the circumstances surrounding how your whiplash injury occurred as they could provide clues that point to what party may be at fault and liable for damages and injuries.

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