A whiplash injury occurs whenever there is a rapid acceleration or deceleration which affects the cervical spine. The head is violently rocked forward, stretching and tearing muscles and ligaments. The soft pulpy discs between the vertebrae can bulge, tear, or rupture. Vertebrae can be forced out of their normal position, reducing range of motion. The spinal cord and nerve roots get stretched, irritated, and compressed. Often symptoms of whiplash injury can take between 7 and 10 days to appear.
Neck sprains and strains, are commonly known as whiplash, and are the most frequently reported injuries in car accident claims.
Fortunately, whiplash injury is typically not a life threatening injury, but it can lead to a prolonged period of partial disability and extreme discomfort.
Head restraints can help prevent whiplash injury. When a car is struck from the rear, the seat-back pushes against an occupant’s torso and propels it forward. If the head is unsupported, it lags behind the torso until the neck reaches its limit, and the head suddenly whips forward. A good head restraint prevents this by moving an occupant’s head forward with the body during a rear-end crash.
Head restraints should be properly adjusted for maximum affect and safety. The top of the head restraint should be even with the top of the head or, if it will not reach, as high as it will go. The distance from the back of the head to the restraint should be as small as possible.
While most people involved in minor car accidents recover quickly without any chronic symptoms, some continue to experience symptoms for years after the injury. This wide variation in symptoms after relatively minor injuries has led some to suggest that, in many cases, whiplash is not so much a real physiologic injury, but that symptoms are more created as a result of potential economic gain.
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