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Causes and symptoms of whiplash injuries

California is well-known for its heavy traffic. Car accidents occur every day throughout the state, and whiplash is a common injury suffered by drivers and passengers. Whiplash describes neck injuries caused by sudden forces, usually from a car crash, that fling a person's head back and forth very quickly.

Injury from whiplash results in strains and tears to the ligaments of the neck tissues as well as stretching muscles and tendons beyond their normal ranges. The injuries can tear the tissues supporting the vertebrae. Specific joints in the spine called facet joints often suffer sprains to the supportive facet capsule ligaments, according to the American Chiropractic Association.

After an auto accident, a person might not feel the pain of whiplash right away. Although it is not known why, the symptoms of whiplash often do not begin for two to 48 hours after an accident. When they start, pain and stiffness in the neck are the most frequent complaints.

Headaches, especially at the base of the skull, trouble about two-thirds of whiplash sufferers. Pain can also spread into the shoulders, arms, upper back and chest. Other symptoms include dizziness, ear ringing, vertigo, nausea, blurred vision, and trouble swallowing. Whiplash is also associated with jaw pain, irritability, inability to concentrate and fatigue.

The effects of whiplash can linger and require ongoing therapy, such as chiropractic manipulations. A victim might have to miss work and lose income. Treatment costs can add up, especially when symptoms persist. Personal injury claims are sometimes filed by people who suffered from whiplash in car accidents. An attorney might be able to help a victim seek compensation from insurance companies or the at-fault driver, especially if it can be proven that negligent driving caused the crash.

Source: American Chiropractic Association, "Whiplash," Accessed Jan. 19, 2015

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