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The basics of whiplash, from causes to prevention

Whiplash occurs when the neck is thrust one way and then jerked violently or suddenly the other way. Although whiplash can occur in sports, at work or from falling, road users in Georgia might not realize that traffic collisions are the primary cause. In a whiplash, the head rises up from the spine, creating a sprain or strain at the bottom of the skull. A sprain occurs when the ligaments in the neck become torn, while a strain occurs when the tendons and muscles of the neck are overstretched. The facet joints and capsules in the neck appear to be the most susceptible. Although rare, whiplash could dislocate or fracture vertebrae.

Stiffness and pain at the bottom of the skull, in the back of the neck or at the front of the neck are the most commonly experienced symptoms. However, the stiffness and pain might extend through the shoulders, arms, upper chest or upper back. Headaches are also common, occurring in more than 66 percent of whiplash patients. These and other symptoms usually do not arise for two to 48 hours following the onset of the injury.

One treatment for whiplash is staying active, within reason, unless the injury requires immobilization. Many physicians prescribe exercises and stretches. The second type of treatment involves physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation. Many doctors use hot and cold applications to reduce muscle spasms and control pain. Pain relief might also be obtained through electrical stimulation or spinal manipulation. It may not be possible to prevent whiplash, but wearing seat belts with shoulder restraints could reduce the risk of severe injuries for victims of car wrecks. Vehicle occupants should also ensure that their headrests are adjusted correctly.

In Georgia, car wreck victims might be entitled to compensation for whiplash if it was due to the negligence of another. The victims could talk to personal injury lawyers about whether taking legal action is in their best interests.

Source: American Chiropractic Association , "Whiplash", January 04, 2015

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