What is Whiplash?

13 November 2015

The term ‘whiplash’ is used a lot when talking about personal injury claims, especially road traffic accidents.

You will often hear people referring to “just whiplash” or “a bit of whiplash, that’s all”, implying that it is something minor and inconsequential. But is that fair? What actually is whiplash?

The term ‘whiplash’ is the name for a spinal injury caused by the weight of your head moving forwards, backwards or to the side, beyond its usual range of movement.

This frequently happens in road traffic accidents, when the sudden impact on a vehicle can cause these types of movement. However, we also see whiplash injuries caused by all manner of other accidents too – anything where there is a sudden jerk on the body.

Whiplash usually gives rise to pain and stiffness in the neck, but this might also be present in the shoulder(s) or back, maybe with the addition of headaches.

Symptoms often do not come on straight away, but maybe up to twenty-four hours later. The symptoms might be easily treated with over-the counter painkillers, possibly with some physiotherapy, and resolve themselves fairly quickly. However, in some cases the symptoms become chronic – i.e. they continue into the longer term.

However long the symptoms last, they can be very unpleasant. A ‘stiff neck’ may not sound like much, but it impacts on many aspects of daily life. Every turn of the head can cause pain: talking to people, driving, watching the television all become difficult. It can affect the victim’s sleep, making the victim feel tired and depressed. Undertaking physical work can be difficult, but it can be equally uncomfortable to sit at a computer or do driving work.

Many people do not realise that a properly adjusted car head restraint can minimise the risk of developing whiplash in an accident. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has produced guidance on this. They explain that a head restraint is designed to limit the movement of the head, and they explain how it should be positioned to maximise its effect.

We have a great deal of experience in dealing with people who have suffered whiplash as the result of an accident, with both short- and long-term symptoms.

If you have suffered whiplash or would like more information, please contact Mark House on 01332 614506.