Whiplash is also called cervical acceleration and deceleration. It is a descriptive term used to visualize the action of the neck that results in the injury. Whiplash is a common injury for drivers who are hit from behind in a rear end collision. The symptoms do not usually appear right away, so individuals suffering from whiplash often remain unaware of the severity of the injury until several hours after the accident.
When the neck area rapidly accelerates, and then there is a sudden stop, or deceleration, many different internal tissues can be damaged. The spinal cord passes through the neck, and it is an extension of the brain stem. When the spinal cord is stretched during a whiplash motion, it can cause damage to surrounding tissues. This can damage blood vessels, nerves, connective tissue and other supporting structures.
After an accident, a person who believes that he or she suffered whiplash can go to a hospital for an examination. A physicin might suggest a variety of tests before offering a diagnosis. These might include x-rays of the neck area and MRI scans for soft tissue that might have been damaged during the incident.
After a diagnosis, the injured may have a number of different treatment options. While the information regarding the effectiveness of whiplash injury treatment varies, there are a few common steps that individuals take, which may promote healing. Some suggest that early range of motion exercises, which involves rotational movements, speed up the healing process during the first four days after the accident. Physical therapy is an option for patients who suffer from pain when moving their neck, and some victims choose to enroll in occupational therapy programs that help them return to a work environment.
While whiplash is not usually considered a life-threatening injury, its diagnoses and treatment can be time consuming and expensive. A person who suffered the injury in a car accident that may have been caused by another party can discuss options for recovering the damages associated with whiplash with an attorney.