Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of whiplash in Maryland. Thousands of drivers and passengers suffer these painful injuries every year in our state. The question ‘how do you treat whiplash?’ is extremely important for people who are diagnosed with this injury.
Although many people report whiplash injuries in the days and weeks after car wrecks, they don’t always treat them with the seriousness they deserve. The neck and back is a sensitive area. Never discount potential complications after whiplash injuries. If another driver caused your injury you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible about your rights. Keep reading from Baltimore whiplash injury lawyer Randolph Rice about how to treat whiplash and neck injuries after an accident in Maryland.
What is Whiplash and How Does It Happen?
Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by sudden, rapid back-and-forth movements of the neck or head. Rear-end accidents are the most common cause of whiplash injuries. When another car or truck hits you from behind your head can be pushed forward rapidly and snap back as your seatbelt or an airbag abruptly stops the forward movement.
The motion is compared to that of a bullwhip which is why the injury is called whiplash. Although the name accurately describes the motion, it is not the technical term for the injury. The technical term for whiplash is hyperextension and hyperflexion. Hyperextension is when your neck whips backward; hyperflexion is when it jerks forward.
According to SpineUniverse, about 3 million people suffer from whiplash every year in the United States. Although car accidents are the leading cause of whiplash the injury can also be caused by:
- Sporting injuries
- Physical assaults.
Whiplash can take days, weeks or even months to become apparent. Typical symptoms include neck pain, tightness and stiffness in the shoulders, and headaches that radiate from the base of the skull to the forehead. You may feel tired and dizzy and suffer numbness and tingling in your arms.
Occasionally, whiplash injuries can be more severe. You can experience blurred vision, anger and irritability, interrupted sleep, ringing in the ears, depression, and memory and concentration problems. If you suffer more acute symptoms from whiplash, this should be reflected in your personal injury claim.
Most whiplash victims make a full recovery. Their symptoms clear up in a matter of weeks or months. However, some car accident victims continue to suffer after a year. About 3 to 5 percent of people diagnosed with whiplash continue to suffer symptoms that keep them on disability a year after an automobile crash.
How to Recover from Whiplash After a Maryland Car Accident
Motorists who have been involved in a Maryland car wreck, particularly rear-enders, should go to their doctor to check for the symptoms of whiplash, other soft tissue injuries, or more serious injuries including fractures. The doctor will examine you and check the range of motion in your shoulders and neck and how much movement causes pain. The doctor will look for signs of tenderness in your shoulders, back or neck, and test the reflexes and the degree of sensation in your limbs.
The signs of whiplash are not always obvious. The doctor will often order one of the following imaging methods to look for damage and more serious conditions:
- X-Ray – A simple X-ray will show fractures, arthritis, and dislocations.
- CT (Computerized Tomography) Scan – CT scans use X-rays but are more detailed. They produce in-depth cross-sectional images of bones. They can pick up other abnormalities like brain bleeds and cancer.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – MRIs use magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed three-dimensional image of the body. An MRI is more effective than a CT scan in identifying soft tissue injuries, brain injuries, herniated disks, whiplash, and ligament damage.
Treatment for whiplash ranges from pain management to invasive procedures. It’s rare for someone suffering from whiplash to end up on the operating table.
Pain Management Techniques for Whiplash
The following techniques are often recommended by doctors. Talk to a medical professional before treating whiplash.
- Heat and Cold Treatment – Apply hot or cold treatments to the neck for about 15 minutes up to six times a day. You can buy hot and cold treatments from pharmacies. Consider applying moist heat to the neck but only after icing it first for two or three days.
- Bedrest – Rest for the first day or so after a neck injury but you should move again after 24 hours.
- Over-the-counter pain medications – Over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol and ibuprofen can treat mild or even moderate whiplash.
- Prescription Medications – If your whiplash pain is more acute after an accident in Maryland, your doctor may prescribe more powerful medications including antidepressants if your injury affects your psychological wellbeing.
- Injections – In some cases, whiplash injury victims are given injections such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) to numb the pain.
- Muscle Relaxants – Doctors or the hospital E.R. department may prescribe numbing medication to soothe tight muscles. Medications can induce drowsiness and you should not drive while taking them.
- Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is often recommended by a doctor in tandem with pain management. A physical therapist will put you on a program that strengthens your neck and shoulder muscles. This treatment may extend your range of motion and restore your movement to what it was before your accident. Your physical therapist will create a personalized plan to help you post-whiplash. You may be asked to roll your shoulders, bring your neck toward your chest, tilt your head from side to side or rotate your neck in both directions.
- Exercise – Your doctor is likely to tell you to do stretching and movement exercises to help restore the range of motion in your head and neck whether or not you receive physical therapy.
- Neck Brace or Collar – Neck braces or soft foam collars are used to add support in more severe instances of whiplash. Collars are not recommended for long-term use. Many studies show that keeping the neck still for too long can weaken the strength of your muscles and hinder recovery.
- Alternative Medicine – Less traditional treatments to treat whiplash injuries include chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage. Talk to your doctor before you consider these. In some case treatment by chiropractors can damage soft tissues.
- Surgery – If you suffer persistent and long-lasting pain after a whiplash injury, your spinal doctor may recommend surgery. This can include fusion or spinal instrumentation. You should only undergo neck surgery as a last resort and look out for complications.
Can How You Treat Whiplash Affect Your Settlement in Maryland?
The degree of seriousness of a Maryland whiplash injury is likely to have a bearing on your eventual payout. Damages for an injury typically involve the cost of medical bills, your lost wages, and pain and suffering. Your medical bills for a neck injury include ongoing care, so these damages are especially important in a whiplash case. A serious whiplash injury can lead to time off work whether you work a 9-5 office job or on a construction site.
A study in the journal Brain Injury suggested whiplash can cause or exacerbate traumatic brain injuries. The authors examined more than 1200 cervical (neck) MRI’s of people experiencing severe neck pain as the result of whiplash. In almost a quarter of the cases, the patients with whiplash were far more likely to have suffered changes to the brain such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although most whiplash injuries attract five-figure settlements, a neck injury linked to a TBI may attract a larger settlement.
Talk to a Baltimore Whiplash Injury Lawyer About Suing Liable Parties
An experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyer will evaluate your case against the party who caused your whiplash injury. Many insurance companies are dismissive of whiplash injuries. They treat them as minor complaints. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we know how serious and painful these injuries can be. Please call us for a free consultation at (410) 431-0911.