Many people who suffer injuries after a car collision assume they are minor. This article addresses whiplash, the many types of spinal injuries that typically sustained in car accidents, and why it is prudent to be checked out.
Most individuals refer to neck and back injuries from a car crash as “whiplash” injuries, which means the forces of the impact forcefully move the spine back and forth or side to side. A whiplash event is no laughing matter.
The spine consists of bones called vertebrae. Ligaments, muscles, and tendons support the vertebrae and hold these bones in place.
The ligaments, muscles, and tendons can withstand some force. However, a forceful whiplash can stretch the ligaments, muscles, and tendons beyond their capability. When that happens, these soft tissues tear. Some tears are minor and often heal after a short period, however, other tears are more extensive and take a lot longer to heal. Sometimes, tears do not heal completely and become a chronic and long-standing problem.
A violent and forceful whiplash can also damage a “disc” located in between each vertebra. The damage to a disc varies. Sometimes whiplash causes the disc to bulge. Whiplash can cause more severe damage to a disc. The disc can tear, causing the inside material to come out. A torn disc is known as a herniated disc. A bulging or herniated disc can be very painful. The damaged disc can also start to pinch on nerves in the area, which not only causes pain, but causes numbness and tingling in the arms or legs.
Every injury to the neck and back is a serious matter because even a minor whiplash event can turn out to be significant. That is why a victim of whiplash should seek medical treatment immediately when symptoms arise. Typical medical providers for immediate care include the emergency room or urgent care. Other providers typically seen after a collision include chiropractors or primary care physicians. Specialists, such as Orthopedists or pain management doctors, are commonly seen when the symptoms are more severe.
The treatment plan for whiplash injuries varies depending on the symptoms. A typical plan for sprain injuries includes pain and anti-inflammatory medication, along with a course of physical therapy. The plan can also include diagnostic testing, such as x-rays or MRI, to rule out significant damage to the bones or spine.
Treatment for damaged discs include injections to eliminate pain and inflammation in the spine, and surgery is an option for a damaged disc when conservative treatment fails.
Recovery after a whiplash injury varies from person to person and depends on the age of the person and the condition of the spine. Strong and healthy spines may recover in 6-8 weeks while weaker spines take longer to heal. As an example, some victims of a car crash have a degenerative disease of the spine, commonly referred to as arthritis. An arthritic spine is more susceptible to injury and typically takes much longer to heal. In some cases, the spine does not completely heal and becomes a chronic problem.
A victim of a car accident should never make assumptions about an injury, and the person should seek immediate treatment not only to find out the nature and extent of the injury but for peace of mind. We specialize in motor vehicle collisions at MCIS. Call us for a free consultation about your case.