What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Whiplash is a type of neck injury which is most often caused by a vehicle collision. The sudden movement of the head backwards and then forwards in a rear-end collision can damage the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck.
Whiplash can be categorised as either acute whiplash or chronic whiplash. The symptoms for each are slightly different. Whiplash becomes chronic if the symptoms last for more than 6 months. Following an accident, the symptoms of whiplash may take a while to become apparent. Symptoms may appear 6-12 hours after the accident or even the next day.
A 32 year old man from Glasgow was involved in a car accident whilst on holiday in England. He originally thought that he’d be able to go back to work straight away but was in a lot of pain and was also suffering from dizziness. When he spoke to his boss, he said that, “at first she sounded worried, but the second I said whiplash, she reacted like it was trivial or something and practically accused me of malingering.” He was able to make a claim for compensation after his doctor confirmed that he was suffering from whiplash.
The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, swelling and tenderness in the neck, reduced movement or loss of movement and headaches. Other symptoms of whiplash can include pain in the lower back, pain, numbness or paraesthesia (pins and needles) in the arms and hands, muscle spasms, dizziness, blurred vision, tiredness, vertigo (the sensation of movement or spinning when you are standing still), tinnitus (noise in one or both ears or inside the head) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).
If you experience dizziness, headaches, blurred vision or difficulty swallowing for longer than a short while, you should speak to a doctor.
Some less common symptoms of whiplash can include memory loss, poor concentration and irritability.
Chronic whiplash is defined as whiplash where the symptoms last for more than six months. It is characterised by the following symptoms: pain and stiffness in the neck, a persistent headache, dizziness, paraesthesia (pins and needles) in the arms and hands and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
Most cases of whiplash will get better in time, without any lasting damage. However, in the meantime, the symptoms of whiplash can affect your work and everyday life. You may find it difficult to carry out some activities and you should avoid driving if you are experiencing neck pain and stiffness.
One victim of a whiplash injury suffered ongoing neck and back pain over two years after the vehicle collision that caused it. He received £35,000 compensation for the lost work and activity capacity.
You may also have received other injuries at the same time as your whiplash injury. This could include chest pain or bruising on the chest, caused by the restraining force of your seat belt in a vehicle collision.
You should speak to a doctor after your injury. With neck injuries, it is better to be on the safe side and get your injury checked, even if you think it is not serious.
A 29 year old man was driving along the M4 when a 4×4 pulled in behind him. The 4×4 driver was far too close behind him and when traffic slowed, the 4×4 crashed into the back of his car. The man involved did not experience any symptoms until the next day when he awoke with neck and back pain, a headache and dizziness. He spoke to his doctor who diagnosed whiplash. He had to take 2 weeks off work to recover. Fortunately, he had taken the name and details of the 4×4 driver at the time of the accident and was able to consult a solicitor about how to proceed. He submitted a claim for compensation and received £2,750 compensation for the injury and £850 in out of pocket expenses.
Whiplash can also have potential complications such as spinal cord damage, spinal arthritis, eyesight problems, chronic pain and headaches. If you received any other injuries at the same time as your whiplash injury, this may also affect your symptoms.
Unfortunately, sometimes people do not realise the varying severity of whiplash injuries and just how painful the injuries can be or that recovery can take varying lengths of time. You can expect the symptoms of whiplash to gradually get better until they are completely gone but the length of time this will take does vary from case to case. You should seek guidance from your doctor about how to help your recovery. You may be prescribed medication for pain-relief and reducing inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend doing gentle exercises to strengthen the muscles in your neck and will also be able to advise you about returning to work and which activities you should avoid until your recovery is complete.