Auto accident. Car crash. Motor vehicle collision. No matter how you spell it, it all adds up to one huge headache (literally).
The period of time after an accident is stressful and many times confusing. Even if it is a minor collision, the police are called. Reports are filed. Insurance information is exchanged. Maybe your car is towed. Later, there are calls to insurance adjusters and collision repair shops. Sometimes lawyers even get involved, and the whole thing is more complicated than you bargained for.
If there are injuries to you or a loved one, the problems are compounded exponentially. Crash victims often find themselves wondering how their neck can hurt from a “little fender bender.” Is it whiplash that is causing their neck pain, headaches, back pain, muscle spasms, etc.? The question then becomes, where do I go and who do I trust to give me the help I need to get better?
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash injury is a common consequence following motor vehicle accidents.
The term ‘whiplash’ was first used in 1928 to describe the effects of sudden acceleration or deceleration forces in motor vehicle accidents that resulted in injuries to the cervical spine. For this reason, whiplash is medically known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome. Because of the extensive list of symptoms attributable to whiplash, it is also commonly referred to as whiplash associated disorder (WAD).
If you suspect that you have experienced whiplash, you are not alone. There are approximately 3 million new whiplash injuries each year, and that number is growing. In fact, Dr. Arthur Croft, a leading researcher of whiplash, has even referred to the increased incidence as a modern epidemic. Whether or not I agree with the term epidemic or not, one thing is for sure – I do not expect the number of whiplash cases to go down anytime soon. Especially with the number of distracted drivers increasing with the prevalence of cell phones and other electronics utilized by many drivers.
Most Common Symptoms of Whiplash
Below is a list of the most common symptoms associated with whiplash.
- Neck pain
- The pain could range anywhere from mild to severe. It could be located in one spot or a general area. It might even radiate into the shoulder or further into the arm.
- Neck stiffness and/or reduced range of motion
- Shoulder pain
- This can either be from direct injury to the shoulder or from referred pain from soft tissues in the neck.
- Upper back pain
- Low back pain
- Although whiplash is often associated with neck injury, researchers have found low back pain in 57% of their CAD cases. The incidence climbs to 71% in broadside collisions.
- Radiating pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the extremities
- Injury to the neck’s spinal nerve roots is common and can lead to cervical radiculopathy symptoms in the upper extremities.
Other Whiplash Symptoms and Associated Disorders
As stated earlier, the list of symptoms attributable to whiplash is extensive. Below is a list of other frequently seen symptoms.
- This can result from a neck injury or a concussion.
- Memory and/or concentration problems
- Cognitive problems could be due to a brain injury.
- TMJ related symptoms
- Injury to the muscles around the jaw can result in pain with certain activities such as chewing or yawning.
- Clicking and popping of the joint can occur, along with limited mouth opening.
- Vision problems
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Ringing in the ears – tinnitus
- Emotional changes
- Irritability, anxiety, mood swings, even depression might occur.
- The symptoms could be associated with mild traumatic brain injury following a concussion, post-traumatic stress syndrome, pain, or stress.
- Insomnia/sleep problems