What is Whiplash?

What is Whiplash?

In a motor vehicle collision, even when the impact is negligible, there can still be trauma caused by the snapping of a head, or the sudden jolt to your neck or skeletal system. For years, we have heard about “whiplash,” particularly among individuals who have been in a car accident. But what is whiplash? How can you know if you will experience pain or discomfort from whiplash?

Whiplash Defined

Whiplash typically occurs when your neck simulates the action of a whip, either snapped forward because of sudden deceleration, or snapped backward by sudden acceleration. In motor vehicle accidents, particularly when you are strapped in with a seat belt, you can experience a forward whiplash followed by a backward whiplash, as you reach the end of the seat belt and are thrown toward the rear of the vehicle.

Whiplash is customarily used to describe injury to the bone structure and/or the soft tissue in your neck. Soft tissue injury can include muscle, tendon or ligament damage.
The symptoms of whiplash are varied, and may include:

  • Stiffness or pain in the neck
  • Stiffness or pain in the shoulders
  • Headache
  • Pain or weakness in your arms
  • Upper or lower back pain
  • TMJ or temporomandibular joint (jaw) injury
  • Dizziness or fatigue
  • Vision or hearing problems

Persons suffering from whiplash may also experience anger, anxiety, depression and even an inability to sleep. Though many people recover quickly from a whiplash injury, whiplash associated disorders can become chronic, and can lead to long periods of disability.

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