Whiplash, a painful neck injury, is usually the result of a car accident but, at one time, it was known as ‘railway spine’, because of injuries received in train accidents. Around 1928, the term, ‘whiplash injury’, was first used. It is a general term for damage to both the bone structure as well as the muscle and soft tissue of the neck. Whiplash associated disorder is a broader term used to describe a more severe, chronic condition.
Anyone who has ever had a whiplash knows the pain that comes with it. For a while, if a person was involved in a car accident and then claimed symptoms of a whiplash injury, he was often regarded with suspicion. Some even went so far as to suggest that complainers were seeking generous insurance settlements. There were sneers that complainants were not suffering from a real injury but were just complaining for monetary gain.
In the past, if there were no broken bones, an actual injury was hard to document as soft tissue injuries did not show up on an x-ray. As a result, insurance companies would deny all coverage. When a patient was really suffering, this just added insult to injury. It didn’t help that their misery was often scoffed at. It was fakery and the patient was a liar, a fraud, or, at the very least, a raving hypochondriac. Some people, who had genuine whiplash injuries and obvious symptoms from car accidents, actually refused to seek medical treatment. They dreaded the raised eyebrows and skepticism that often greeted the symptoms of whiplash. Some said they would rather deal with their pain than the suspicious attitude that was encountered in hospital emergency rooms.
Clinical studies were eventually undertaken to investigate the whiplash issue. The conclusions were, that while there would always be the unscrupulous few who were trying to exploit an insurance company, most claims were legitimate and a whiplash caused pain and some long term damage. It was vindication for the injured; a whiplash was a real injury with real symptoms.
Consider How It Happens
Most whiplash injuries occur as a result of a riding in a car which collides with another vehicle or is hit from behind. The head is suddenly jerked forward and then back, stretching the ligaments and muscles, which can be torn. In a rear end collision, the victim’s car is pushed forward and then, if he has his foot on the brake or his car slams into the one in front of him, there’s another sudden jolt, snapping his body forward while his head snaps back, stretching and damaging the muscles and cervical spine a second time. If the victim is not wearing a seatbelt, he may hit the steering wheel with force or strike the windshield. The neck is most vulnerable to injury in this type of accident but the muscles of the upper back may also be damaged. Studies show that a whiplash injury can be the result of an accident, even at a speed of 15 mph.
• The cervical discs, the soft cushion between each vertebrae can bulge, tear or rupture.
• The cervical vertebrae can be popped and forced out of position
• The spinal cord and nerve roots can be stretched and irritated.
• The muscles and ligaments that support the neck can be stretched or torn.
• Inflammation of soft tissues develops as a result of nerve root compression
• Muscles of the upper back can be over-stretched.
Car accidents are the most common cause of whip lash injuries but a sports injury, such as a skiing accident, can also cause these painful symptoms.