What is whiplash? A definition of the injury and the facts explained.

Whiplash. It’s a term we hear about all the time, but what does it actually mean?

According to medical dictionaries, whiplash is a “hyperextension-hyperflexion injury to the cervical spine caused by an abrupt jerking movement of the head, either in a backward or forward direction.”

That’s all very well, but to those of us who aren’t doctors, that definition really isn’t going to make too much sense. So once again, what is whiplash? Well, that’s what we’re about to find out.

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The video to the left shows how the body is likely to react when involved in a car accident, and demonstrates the unnatural stresses that the neck is likely to be exposed to.

When the impact takes place, the body is sent flying forwards and the head jerks back. This is called hyperextension and is likely to damage the tissues in the neck, as well as the ligaments and some parts of the spine.

Hyperflexion then occurs as the head recoils forwards, exposing the vertebrae and the nerves to further risk of injury.

Most commonly caused by car accidents, but also triggered by a range of other incidents, whiplash occurs when the soft tissue in the spine is strained and stretched as a result of the body being thrown forwards in a sudden and forceful jerking motion.

Using a car crash as an example, being hit from behind would send the body forward whilst the head is thrown backwards. The force of the movement is beyond what nature built the body to endure, and so the muscles and the ligaments around the neck are likely to get abnormally stretched. The doctors would describe this as the hyperextension part of the injury.

The hyperflexion bit occurs when the head is then thrown forwards because the brakes have been instinctively slammed or the car has come to a crunching halt against another vehicle. This is likely to cause the neck to over-bend to such an extent that the chin strikes the chest, compounding the damage that has already been done.

This whole process usually takes place within less than a second, yet can cause weeks, months, or, in severe cases, even years of agonizing pain and unnecessary hassle.

The importance of medical advice

It is estimated that more than 20% of people involved in rear-end collisions will suffer whiplash as a result. Some will be unaware that they are actually suffering from whiplash and so will fail to seek expert medical advice. Although the majority of people recover from the condition fairly quickly, an unlucky few do develop chronic conditions that may stay with them for the rest of their life.

It is imperative, therefore, that anybody suffering any of the following symptoms in the days after a car crash seeks medical advice immediately. And remember, even accidents at speeds as low as 8 mph can result in whiplash, so it’s best to get yourself checked out if you’re experiencing…

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Numbness or pain in the arm or hand
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Irritableness

This list is not exhaustive and it really is a good idea to pop along to your GP for a check-up even if you don’t think you are suffering from any after-effects following a bump. To find out what the future holds and what treatments are available if you are suffering from whiplash, check out ‘What to do about a whiplash injury’.

Making a compensation claim

If you do find that you’ve been left with whiplash as the result of an accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be well within your rights to make a compensation claim. You may be entitled to money to recompense you for any pain and suffering that you’ve been forced to endure, as well as reimbursement for loss of earnings and medical expenses.

Making a claim for compensation can seem like a daunting thing to do, especially if you’ve also got a damaged car to repair or replace, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. We have years of experience in helping people to pursue compensation for a whiplash injury and our excellent success rate speaks for itself.

The best bit is that we work on a no win, no fee basis and our knowledgeable and straight-talking solicitors won’t charge you a single penny for their services. You can also keep 100% of any money that you are awarded if your claim proves successful.

On top of all that we’ll even offer you free legal advice and assistance, so call us today on 0808 143 43 42 to find out more or to get your claim for whiplash compensation in motion.

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