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Car accident injuries: what is whiplash and how is it treated?

Car accidents can be jarring -- physically and mentally. One common injury suffered in a car accident is whiplash. Whiplash is especially prevalent in auto accidents in which one vehicle strikes another from behind. However, although it is a common injury and many residents of Los Angeles may have known someone who has suffered from it, it is still important to have an understanding of what whiplash is and how it is treated.

In essence, when someone's neck is forcefully and quickly jarred from front to back, the resulting injury is called whiplash. Symptoms of whiplash usually manifest themselves within one day of the accident. Headaches and pain in one's neck or shoulders are both symptoms of whiplash. In addition, whiplash victims may be unable to move their neck without experiencing pain or may find that their range of motion in their neck is limited. Whiplash victims may also feel tired or dizzy.

In order to determine whether an accident victim has suffered whiplash, a physician will assess the victim's ability to move his or her neck, arms and head. X-rays, CT scans and MRIs may also be useful in determining whether someone has whiplash and, specifically, if the victim has suffered damage to his or her bones, spine or soft tissues. Unfortunately, these types of exams can be expensive, adding financial concerns to what is already a painful condition.

Whiplash may be treated with ice, heat, painkillers and therapy. It is also important for whiplash victims to rest, so they can recover from their injuries. However, it could still take a few months for a person to fully recover from whiplash. Unfortunately, some victims of whiplash will suffer from chronic pain. This can make it difficult for a person to return to work, perform daily tasks and in general can have a negative effect on that person's quality of life. Therefore, those who suffer from whiplash due to a car accident may want to seek compensation from the at-fault driver.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Whiplash," Accessed Aug. 17, 2015

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