Been in an accident and not sure if you have whiplash? Here are tips from a car accident whiplash expert on how to find out.
“Whiplash” is the general term used for a neck injury caused by a car accident. It was first used to denote the “whipping” motion of the head and neck during a collision. As science advanced, the mechanism of injury became more clear and precise and doctors moved away from using the term. But because it is a word ingrained within our culture, doctors are trending towards using the term again.
A car accident can injure any part of your body. Injuries are caused by energy that is transmitted from one vehicle into another. As cars collide, energy is dissipated by crunching of plastic and metal, sound, heat and even light energy. After all this energy is bled off, some may remain. This residual energy is what causes an injury. The more residual energy in a collision, the more likely you are to be injured and more severe it may be. Most auto accident injuries are suffered in low to moderate speed collisions in which the amount of vehicle damage is fairly low so less energy is dissipated by the vehicles and more energy is experienced by the occupants.
Symptoms of a Car Accident Whiplash Injury
Symptoms may come on immediately or may take some time to emerge, these are the most common symptoms:
- Fuzzy headed feeling
- Irritability, anger
- Neck stiffness
- Neck soreness
- Pain on movement
- Clunking or crackling sounds on moving neck
- Upper and middle back pain
- Pain stabbing into shoulder blade on neck movement
- Low back pain
- Buttocks pain
- Shoulder, arm, wrist or hand pain
- Numbness and tingling into arms and hands
- Hip, knee, leg or foot pains
- Numbness and tingling into the legs and feet
Symptoms may be subtle and slowly ramp up over a period of days or even weeks making some people question whether they are hurt from the accident or some other cause. The best way is to take an objective, rational inventory of the situation and how you feel. Many people want to minimize the situation because nobody really wants to think of themselves as injured. Untreated injuries account for prolonged suffering later, so it's best to be honest with yourself and try to determine if you have symptoms related to the accident. In general, symptoms are not a good indicator of severity of injury. You may have moderate injuries, but only experience mild pain and you may have sever pain, but only mild injuries. The key is that any symptoms following a collision indicates injury of some degree.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
- How do I feel overall compared to just prior to the accident? Are my eating, sleeping, energy levels any different?
- How does my head, neck, back, arms and legs (any area that feels some soreness) feel compared to just prior to the accident?
- Are my thinking, reading, speaking, balance, coordination and emotions different than prior to the accident?
- Are there any activities like washing hair, bathing, dressing, household chores, child care, recreation or work, that cause discomfort, make me change the way I do them or that I avoid since the accident?
- If you already had pain before your accident, did it change after the accident? Does it hurt more intensely or more often, has the nature changed from dull ache to sharp, does your pain now interfere with activities that you could do before? In other words, if you felt one way prior to the accident and after you feel different, that is a sign that you may have suffered an aggravation of a pre-existing injury from your car accident.
Consult with a Car Accident Doctor Specializing in Whiplash
Once you've taken an inventory of how you feel, the next step is to seek an evaluation with a doctor who specializes in these types of injuries. General doctors lack the training and experience to identify many car accident injuries. Less obvious signs will be missed and even more serious injuries such as concussions and damaged ligaments are often overlooked by family medical physicians and general chiropractors. And when it comes to proper treatment, these doctors often prescribe treatments that are lacking.
How a Specialist Will Know if You Have Whiplash
A doctor specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of car accident injuries will be able to objectively and systematically locate any injuries and determine if they are caused by the accident.
The doctor will review your complaints, the specifics of the accident, your past history and have you complete specific standard medical questionnaires for each symptoms or area of injury. With this information the doctor will be able to assess whether it is possible or likely for an injury to occur.
You will then undergo a physical examination involving your spinal nerve system, your brain, your bones, joints and muscles and a specific chiropractic analysis of spinal alignment and function.
In most cases imaging such as x-rays will be requested that will be able to tell the doctor what degree of injury has been suffered and if there are any pre-existing problems such as arthritis or spinal anomalies that may complicate your injury. Under some circumstances you may be referred out for a CT scan or MRI as well.
Once all of this information is gathered, your car accident specialist doctor will then compile it to document whether an injury has occurred, if it is due to the accident in question, the severity of the injuries, what treatments are available and appropriate for your specific condition and what the long term outlook for recovery is.
After your injuries are located and documented, the next step is a plan for treatment for whiplash from car accident.