Whiplash — What Is It and Is It Serious?

Most people have heard the term “whiplash” before, but few really understand what it is and what it means to suffer from whiplash. Unfortunately, the term whiplash has gotten a bad name over the years, in part because of the way it has been portrayed in the media. Whiplash has historically been portrayed as a catch-all phrase used to mean a car accident victim really didn’t receive any serious injuries. The truth, however, is that whiplash injuries can be serious and should be treated as such.

Your Spine

Our bodies are essentially highly developed machines. Although the human body can take an amazing amount of abuse, the systems that make up the human body do have their limits. The human spine, for example, is extremely strong. Your spine is a critical component within your body and serves to protect your spinal cord as well as send and receive signals between your brain and other parts of your body. Your spine is what allows you to stand upright as well as bend forward and backward. The spine also acts as a shock absorber for your entire body when necessary. While your spine is incredibly flexible, the impact produced by a car accident can stretch your spine past its limits, causing what we call a “whiplash” injury.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a hyperextension (over-extension) injury to the neck, often the result of being struck from behind. The impact from a car accident frequently produces enough force to hyperextend your neck. The mechanics of whiplash injury are thought to be as follows: The victim may first be pushed or accelerated forward, with the body moving forward but the head remaining momentarily behind, rocking up and back, and some muscles and ligaments may be stretched or torn. These muscles, in a reflex action, contract to bring the head forward again, to prevent excessive injury. There may be overcompensation when the head is traveling in a forward direction as the vehicle decelerates. This may rock the head violently forward, stretching and tearing more muscles and ligaments.

So what does this mean in terms that the average accident victim can understand? Basically, your neck is pushed and pulled back and forth at a very rapid pace and with considerable force. Imagine taking a large rubber band and asking a friend to try and pull it away from you. As the two of you pull back and forth, the rubber band stretches out of shape. This is what happens to the ligaments, muscles and tendons in your neck when you receive a whiplash injury.

Is Whiplash Serious?

In most cases, a basic whiplash injury will heal completely over the course of a few weeks without extensive medical intervention. Some whiplash injuries, however, can be more serious. More importantly, what you think is simple whiplash could be masking a much more serious underlying injury. Your spine also has discs that serve as “place holders” or cushions between the vertebrae. If a disc has been damaged, it can lead to much more serious consequences that will require months, even years, of treatment. Nerves found in your spine can also be injured in a car accident. If you assume that the pain you are in is simply a whiplash injury, this nerve damage could go untreated and worsen over time.

If you have been involved in a Yakima car accident, be sure to have a thorough medical examination done after the accident to determine the extent and severity of any injuries you suffered. Neck and back injuries often require sophisticated equipment to diagnose and may take months or years to treat. Failing to recognize a neck or back injury early on will only delay the healing process.

If you have been involved in a car accident in the Yakima area, contact the car accident attorneys at The Mariano Morales Law as soon as possible to ensure that you receive all of the compensation you are due as a result of the injuries you have suffered. Contact the team today by calling (509) 853-2222 or fill out our online contact form for your free initial consultation.