Whiplash injury does not have any visible signs, but it can be painful, and in severe cases, it can also cause other debilitating symptoms in addition to pain. Chronic pain, such as that associated with the most serious cases of whiplash injury, can have a devastating effect on your finances. You might keep going to doctors but struggle to find a treatment that effectively manages your pain to the point that you can work, even part-time. Even worse, the doctors might not believe that your pain is as serious as you say it is and might try to tell you that your symptoms are psychosomatic. If you are injured in a car accident, you have the right to seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident or, in some cases, against another responsible party. The Kansas City car accident lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC are here to help you if you are suffering from whiplash injury or other invisible injuries sustained in a car accident.
How Does Whiplash Injury Happen?
Whiplash injury is a type of neck sprain; it is an injury to the muscles and nerves in your neck. It happens when the vertebrae in your neck and upper back (your cervical spine) are forced forward and then backward in a quick motion. If you immediately thought of rear-end car collisions when reading that description, you are right that car accidents, especially ones where one car hits another from behind, are the most common causes of whiplash injury. It can also occur during sports such as football and skiing, where people tend to fall when traveling at high speeds. In fact, whiplash injury can occur as a result of almost any kind of trauma to the upper back.
Symptoms of Whiplash Injury
The most common symptoms of whiplash injury are pain, soreness, and stiffness in the neck and upper back. In the mildest cases, you only notice the pain when you turn your head, but in more serious cases, the pain is constant. You might also suffer from other symptoms, which you might not immediately realize are the result of whiplash injury. Here are some other symptoms that can be associated with more severe cases of whiplash injury:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Numbness and tingling in the arms
- Headaches, especially if they start at the base of the skull
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
- Psychiatric symptoms such as depression and irritability
Risk Factors for Severe Whiplash Injury
Most cases of whiplash injury resolve on their own with little treatment; the symptoms begin several hours or several days after the accident and go away gradually within a few weeks. Some cases of whiplash injury cause severe pain that lasts a long time, as well as the other symptoms listed above. The following risk factors make it more likely that your whiplash injury symptoms will last a long time and need more treatment than just home remedies:
- Old age
- Poor physical fitness
- Riding in the back seat at the time of the accident
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Have had a previous whiplash injury
Of course, if the car that hit you was traveling fast enough, you can suffer from severe symptoms even if you are young and healthy, have never had whiplash injury before, and were in the front seat at the time of the collision and were wearing a seat belt.
Treatments for Whiplash Injury
For mild cases of whiplash injury, you do not need very much treatment. You can continue your normal activities, taking over-the-counter pain medication when necessary. More serious cases of whiplash injury require physical therapy to preserve the function and range of motion of your neck and arms. For the first day or so after the accident, the doctor might prescribe muscle relaxants. If your whiplash injury is especially severe, the doctor might even inject a local anesthetic into the most painful muscles before your first few physical therapy sessions so that you can tolerate the physical therapy. Doctors used to instruct patients with whiplash injury to wear foam collars for weeks after the accident, but the current view is that limiting a patient’s movement of the affected muscles does more harm than good. Now most patients wear foam collars only when they sleep.
In other words, there is no miraculous cure for whiplash injury. The care is supportive, but you just have to live with the muscle injury until it heals, which can be a long, painful wait.
What To Do if You Have Been Diagnosed with Whiplash Injury
If you are suffering from neck pain or other whiplash injury symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately. The doctor might not be able to make your symptoms disappear quickly, but there will be documentation of the injury in your medical records. In fact, the best time to be examined for whiplash injury is immediately after a car accident, maybe even before the worst of the pain begins. Again, most diagnostic imaging tests do not show whiplash injury, but it is all about documenting when the accident happened and when the pain began and determining which other injuries you do or do not have.
If you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit after the car accident, the defendant might try to argue that you are not seriously injured or that your symptoms are not the result of the car accident. The sooner you see a doctor after the accident, the more easily you can demonstrate that your whiplash injury resulted from the car accident and not from an earlier or later injury.
Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Car Accident?
If you've been hurt in a Kansas City car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.