Millions of car accidents occur in the United States every year, and over a third of these accidents will typically involve injury. If you were involved in a minor collision that only resulted in damage to your vehicle, you might consider yourself lucky. However, days after the accident, you might suddenly wake up with pain in your neck. You might simply brush it off as waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but it is entirely possible that you have a whiplash injury as a direct result of your Connecticut car accident and medical attention is paramount.
What Causes Whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury caused by your neck forcibly and rapidly bending forward and back. It is named as such due to the motion being similar to the cracking of a whip. This motion can injure muscles, ligaments, nerves, bones, discs, and other tissues in your neck, causing pain in the area.
The sudden acceleration or deceleration involved in car accidents make them a major cause for whiplash, and rear-end collisions are particularly notorious. Contact sports, physical abuse or assault, or other types of traumas can also cause whiplash, but car accidents are by far the leading cause.
A whiplash injury can improve within a few weeks following a treatment plan, typically including pain medication and exercise. However, this does not mean you should neglect to visit a doctor after your Connecticut car accident, as complications may arise depending on individual circumstances.
Identifying the Symptoms of Whiplash
If you received care on the scene of your Connecticut car accident or in an emergency room shortly after, your whiplash injury might not have been apparent. Symptoms of whiplash can sometimes take a few days to develop, and several might resemble symptoms for other medical conditions. Should you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor or an urgent care center as soon as possible in order to get an accurate diagnosis. Common symptoms include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, arms, or hands
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, or hands
- Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
Aside from the common symptoms, some people are also affected by:
- Blurred vision
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Concentration and memory problems
A diagnosis from your doctor will be able to rule out other causes for the symptoms and prevent them from worsening. It will typically involve questions about the accident and your symptoms, a look at your medical history, a physical examination (checking your range of motion, reflexes, strength, etc), and imaging tests. These tests can help your doctor determine what conditions are affecting your neck pain, and can include:
- X-ray — Taking X-rays of the neck can help identify fractures, dislocations, or arthritis.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan — More detailed than X-rays and can show images including bones, muscles, fat, and organs. The cross-sectional images can show possible bone damage.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — Can take detailed images of your organs and soft tissues, and can help detect damage to the spinal cord, discs, ligaments, or other soft tissues.
Treating a Whiplash Injury
Treatment for whiplash aims to control pain, restore range of motion, and allow the patient to return to normal activities. The treatment plan is determined by your doctor, based on factors such as your medical history, the extent of your injury, your tolerance and preference for certain medicines, therapies, or procedures, and their expectations for the development of your condition. Some people may only need over-the-counter (OTC) medication and rest, but some may need specialized medication or therapy.
Treatment may include:
- Rest for the first few days
- Application of heat or cold to the area
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen)
- Prescription medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Soft foam cervical (neck) collars
- Gentle, active movement and exercise
- Physical therapy
- Alternative medicine such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massages
Most people with whiplash will recover within a few weeks to a few months with treatment. However, some may experience chronic pain for months or even years after the injury. Chronic pain is more likely if the first symptoms were intense and started rapidly, or if risk factors like old age, existing neck or low back pain, high-speed injury, or prior whiplash injury, are present.
After Treatment: Filing an Injury Claim for Your Connecticut Car Accident
Getting injured can be expensive. You might have faced a loss of income and hefty medical bills. If your whiplash injury was due to the actions of another person, you may be entitled to compensation. Protect your rights by contacting a Connecticut car accident lawyer who will be able to advise you if you have grounds for a claim as well as guide you through the process.