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Whiplash from Car Accidents

“Whiplash” is a common diagnosis following a rear end car crash. The term can refer to several different soft tissue injuries to the neck including muscle strain, muscle sprain, cervical strain, cervical sprain, hyperextension of the neck and hyperflexion of the neck.  These injuries are the result of inertia of the person in the car and the sudden movement of the car. The impact of the car accident forces the body forward while the head stays in place, causing the neck to bend in an extreme whip-like snap.

If you have suffered a whiplash injury, it may get better in a week or so or it may get worse. If it does not improve after a few days, it is important to seek medical attention and, if appropriate, obtain a prescription for a muscle relaxant or pain reliever.  If the muscles stay stiff for too long without improvement it can be much harder to heal and the whiplash injury can become chronic.

Most often, whiplash symptoms will resolve in a couple of weeks.  However, in some instances where the initial diagnosis is  whiplash, but the symptoms do not resolve, your doctor may order additional diagnostic testing including an MRI or CT Scan to diagnose or rule out a more serious injury such as a disc bulge or disc herniation.  These spinal injuries often require physical therapy or more invasive medical treatment. Waiting too long to bring such an injury to the attention of a doctor can result in a worsening of the condition which can become debilitating without intervention.

If you are injured for more than a week or two and are considering a personal injury claim as a result of the car accident, it also becomes important to seek care for your injury to establish for the insurance company that you were injured as a result of the car accident. This prevents the insurance company from acting as though no one was injured or the injuries were very minor. Establishing a record of the injury makes it more likely that you will obtain compensation for the injury and any subsequent medical bills, pain, suffering and inconvenience.

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