If you’ve experienced neck pain after a car accident, you might wonder if it’s whiplash or something even more serious. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common question.
One reportable crash occurred every 58 seconds in one recent year, and one person was injured every two minutes, seven seconds, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. In total, there were 249,241 people injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes that year.
TxDOT also reported that of the 421,882 crashes reported in Texas, there were 31,950 crashes in Dallas alone, and 15,399 in Fort Worth.
The possibility of being in an accident is a reality each of us faces, and so, too, is the possibility of suffering an injury. Frequently when people experience neck pain after an accident, they may assume at first that it’s a minor, temporary condition. However, neck pain and related head and back pain can often mean something more serious, including severe, chronic whiplash, which can result in months or years of pain.
Contact Tate Law Offices now for a free review of your situation and advice about your best legal options.
What Is Whiplash?
Before you brush off your neck pain as a minor setback, it’s important to understand whiplash and some of the other injuries you can sustain from a car crash.
Whiplash is an injury caused by a severe and sudden jolt or movement, forcing the neck to move rapidly back and forth like cracking a whip. It’s commonly caused by a frontal or rear-end impact automobile crash, though not exclusively so.
A crash does not have to involve high speeds to cause major damage. “Many whiplash injuries from vehicle accidents occur at speeds as low as five to 10 mph,” according to Rush University Medical Center.
The symptoms of whiplash may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain with neck movement
- Decreased range of neck motion
- Pain or tenderness in the shoulders, upper back, or arms
You may additionally have:
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
- Blurred vision
- Ear ringing
- Sleep difficulty
- Difficulty concentrating and memory issues
What If It’s Something More Serious?
Because symptoms of whiplash can be difficult to discern from other serious injuries, it’s important to consider other causes as well, such as:
- Herniated Discs — Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine, including the neck, though it most often occurs in the lower back. A herniated disc is when a disc – the cushion that separates the vertebrae of the spine – slips out of place. This may occur due to a sudden injury, such as an auto accident. A herniated disc can put pressure on the spinal cord and nearby nerves. While back pain may be one of the first symptoms, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs and feet are also common.
- Thoracic Spine Injuries — The thoracic spine runs from the base of the neck down to the abdomen, and also connects to the rib cage. Injuries often occur due to a high-energy trauma such as an wreck or a fall from a height. Nerve damage and fractures are a consideration, and treatment may involve bracing for several weeks or surgery.
- Lumbar Spine Injuries —The lumbar spine refers to the lower back. It consists of five large, moveable vertebrae, and connects to large muscles and highly sensitive nerves. The lumber spine needs to be both strong, to protect the spinal cord and nerves, and also flexible, to allow for side bending, rotation, and general mobility. Due to its structure, an injury to the lumbar spine can be incredibly painful, and may also severely impact mobility. Some of the more serious injuries involve spine fracture, disc herniation, or nerve involvement, which may require surgical treatment.
- Spinal Cord Injuries — Injuries to the spinal cord are the most serious of the back injuries. A spinal cord injury may result in loss of sensation, strength, or bodily function. One of the most common causes of a spinal cord injury is trauma — such as a car crash, fall, or sports injury. A serious spinal injury isn’t always immediately obvious, but can become more severe without medical help. It’s important to seek medical attention soon after an injury occurs.
- TBI — A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is sudden damage to the brain usually caused by a blow or impact to the head. Common causes may include motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, and assaults. TBI injuries can range from a mild concussion to cognitive and mental impairment.
- Coup and Contrecoup Injuries — Coup and contrecoup injuries are types of traumatic brain injuries in which the brain is bruised. A coup injury occurs under the site of impact and a contrecoup injury occurs on the opposite side of the brain from where the impact occurred. A classical contrecoup occurs when a moving head strikes a static object, such as a steering wheel. TBIs such as these may cause neurological issues, some of which might be permanent.
- Severe, Chronic Whiplash — While many brush off neck pain as a minor whiplash, a whiplash, in some cases, can have more serious repercussions, resulting in months or even years of pain after an accident. Some of the more serious symptoms can include fuzzy thinking, memory issues, and blurred vision. Treatments may involve physical therapy, injections for inflammation, medication, and chiropractic care, among others.
How to Determine What Type of Injury You Have
Whiplash, and neck and back injuries in general, can be particularly confusing and dangerous because sometimes symptoms don’t appear for hours, days, or even weeks. Because of this, it’s important to see a doctor immediately after an accident, and again if any discomfort appears further down the road.
Medical professionals will likely use a range of diagnostic tools to help determine your injury and its severity, such as X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, myelograms, bone scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs).
Because whiplash is generally characterized by tiny tears and stretches in the tissue, it can be difficult to diagnose with imaging tools, such as X-rays or CT scans. An MRI, which can detect soft tissue damage, is often the best tool to use. You may additionally require the expertise of an orthopedic doctor or neurologist to confirm your injury.
There Is Legal Help for Accident Victims
Navigating the steps you should take after an injury can be confusing and overwhelming. You shouldn’t have to do it alone.
Contact us now for a free consultation.