- Painful sprains can happen when a person’s neck, including their discs, ligaments, nerves, and muscles are suddenly twisted, jolted, or “whipped” if the vehicle they are traveling in was hit.
- This type of sprain, also known as whiplash, is a common soft-tissue injury that often leaves crash victims wondering if pursuing a personal injury claim is necessary.
- Minor to severe neck, shoulder, head, and back pain can present moments or days after an accident and should be reviewed by a medical professional and diagnosed by grade, depending on the severity of the injury.
- When pursuing a claim, collecting medical evidence and keeping a personal record of an accident injury’s diagnosis and treatment struggles may help maximize the compensation in a personal injury case.
Common Car Accident Injury: Whiplash
Also called a neck sprain or neck strain, a whiplash injury is extremely common if involved in a motor vehicle crash. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates nearly 3 million cases of whiplash reported each year. The sudden force in which a person’s body is sent backward or forward and then thrust into the opposite direction during a crash creates unnatural spine movements and causes damage, friction, and tension throughout the body.
Varying levels of pain in the upper neck, shoulders, and back is common for those with whiplash. Intervertebral joints, discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots may be injured as well. NINDS says symptoms and the timing of different pain sensations may vary for each injured individual, but generally include one or more of the following:
- neck and upper back pain and stiffness
- back spasms
- shooting or dull pain with a simple movement
- headaches and dizziness (may be a concussion)
- burning, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
- shoulder and/or upper back pain
While the prognosis for drivers or passengers with whiplash is good and pain clears within a few days or weeks, some people continue to have residual neck pain and headaches triggering the diagnosis of a more significant head, back or neck injury as well as “chronic whiplash.”
Seek Medical Attention to Support Your Injury Claim
Even though some whiplash injuries may not be immediately present after an accident, a person will need to seek a medical review as soon as possible to pursue a claim. This evaluation will also reduce the chance of further health complications and provide the current path for recovery and treatment.
A physician will generally categorize whiplash injuries by grade, depending on the severity of the injury, timing, and symptoms.
- 0: No physical signs of injury or patient complaints
- 1: No physical signs, but neck pain
- 2: Patient experiencing neck pain & signs of a musculoskeletal injury
- 3: Patient experiencing neck pain & signs of neurological impairment
Visiting with a doctor who treats whiplash injuries helps provide the proper documentation, as well as the collected evidence needed to make a case for the injury claim. A patient can request the following tests to determine the extent of a suspected whiplash injury at any time the signs and symptoms of pain resulting from an accident are present:
- X-ray: Typically taken right after a crash if a fracture is suspected or spinal injury concerns are present. X-rays are also often used in whiplash patients who do not improve after the expected recovery time.
- MRI: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan may be performed to detect disc injuries or compression of a nerve or the spinal cord.
- MBB: Medial branch block (MBB) is an injection done to determine whether a facet joint is contributing to neck pain and may be done weeks after whiplash diagnosis and physical therapy treatments.
- CT scan: Computed tomography (CT scan), usually combined with myelogram (dye or contrast injected into the spinal canal) can also be used to help diagnose neck pain that does not respond to treatment.
- EMG/NCV: Electromyography and nerve conduction velocity (EMG/NCV) might be used if there is suspicion of nerve damage.
While there is no guarantee that an injury will show up on any of these tests and some doctors are hesitant to perform imaging for whiplash injuries, injured patients should speak up and request testing decisions based on their best chance for the right recovery.
Serious Whiplash-Related Pain Can Be Chronic and Debilitating
Whiplash can be closely associated with more severe neck and back injuries that cause changes to occur throughout the structures in and surrounding the cervical spine or trauma to the brain (TBI). Someone may have a more severe head, neck, or back injury masked by a whiplash diagnosis if experiencing these symptoms:
- exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
- changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity, and fertility
- pain or an intense stinging sensation
- difficulty breathing
- dull, radiating pain from the neck to the arms
- fatigue and dizziness
- dull or intense headache
- loss of movement
- inability to feel heat, cold, and touch
- loss of bowel or bladder control
- memory loss and confusion
- tenderness, weakness, tingling and pain in the chest, arms, hands, legs, shoulders and upper back
Serious whiplash-related injuries or “chronic whiplash” may require extended therapies, prescription drugs, expensive, invasive surgeries and months of rehabilitation. But even once treated, some patients continue to live life with chronic discomfort, stiffness in the shoulders and sleep disturbances.
6 Things to Keep Track of After Being Diagnosed with a Whiplash Injury
No matter how minor a whiplash injury may seem, keep track of specific information about diagnosis including the number of doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, medical procedures, and any other dated details of how the treatment needs have impacted daily life. Descriptions should be extensive and focused on the pain experienced, the area of the body where the pain occurs, the severity of pain, and at what frequency.
- Exact dates and times you have visited doctors’ offices or hospitals as a result of your injury
- Names of any physician or specialist you may have consulted and their office location
- Treatment and rehabilitation needs prescribed
- Medications (over the counter and prescription)
- Medical tests or referred services
- Severity of your injury or changes in pain throughout the recovery process
Medical records can be helpful when seeking a personal injury claim, but having a crash victim’s personal account will also be relevant.
After a Car Accident, Collect Your Evidence and Contact a Kentucky Personal Injury Attorney
Rhoads & Rhoads is Kentucky’s leading and experienced personal injury firm with offices in Owensboro and Madisonville, representing car accident victims throughout Western Kentucky. We offer free initial consultations, and all cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. We get paid only if we win or settle your case, so there is NO RISK involved.
Call us at 888-709-9329 or contact us by e-mail to schedule an appointment with one of our Madisonville or Owensboro personal injury attorneys.