More than 90% of reported cases of whiplash are the result of automobile accidents, as a car accident trusts can explain. Whiplash can be caused by accidents that occur at any speed and in any type of vehicle, and a person is more likely to experience whiplash if their head is turned to one direction or another at the moment of an unexpected impact.
Tendons, ligaments, muscles and other connective tissues in the neck can be overstretched and tear or snap when the head is suddenly thrust forward, backward or sideways as the result of the impact between two motor vehicles. In an auto accident, the head is thrust in all directions in a split second, and most whiplash victims are unaware of what happened and think that they are ok. All occupants of an automobile are at risk for suffering from whiplash.
Although a car coming from any direction can cause a whiplash, the injury is more likely to occur if a car is stopped at a stop signal or has stopped to make a left-hand turn and is struck from behind by a driver failing to pay attention. Distracted driving is often the cause of such accidents. It is no coincidence that whiplash injuries have increased along with the increase in distracted driving caused by cell phone usage.
Whiplash injuries are not always obvious. Sometimes the symptoms of a whiplash injury do not present themselves for days or even weeks after an automobile accident occurs. A serious whiplash injury may at first seem like a stiff neck or simple neck discomfort when the head is turned, and neck pain may not begin for several days. Chiropractic care and physical therapy can help to reduce the pain associated with whiplash. For more severe cases of whiplash where ligaments and tendons in the neck have been torn, surgery may be the best option to alleviate the pain and return the neck to its normal flexibility.
It can be difficult for a doctor to isolate whiplash as a diagnosis for neck pain because the injury may not present itself immediately and once it does, the pain may be severe one day and non-existent the next. Most whiplash victims walk away from their accident as if they are fine, but are shocked a week later when they cannot turn their head. Whiplash injuries can be masked by other injuries that appear more serious at the moment of an auto accident such as broken bones, lacerations, and traumatic head injuries.
Automobile safety innovations have attempted to reduce incidents of whiplash but in reality, do little to help. Unless a person is properly strapped in the seatbelt and their head is properly placed against the upper headrest at the exact moment of impact they can experience a whiplash injury. Whiplash researchers state that whiplash can occur with a head violent head movement as little as 3 inches. Unless the head is completely immobilized by a head belt restraint, chances are a person can experience a whiplash.
If a person is involved in an automobile accident, even minor accidents, they should seek immediate and follow-up medical treatment. A “stiff neck” could turn out to be a serious whiplash injury with life-changing consequences. Whiplash injuries can be disabling and cost a person lost income from the ability to return to work.