Whiplash - Experience

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What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a relatively common injury that occurs to a person's neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes unrestrained, rapid forward and backward movement of the head and neck, most commonly from motor vehicle accidents. The term "whiplash" was first used in 1928. The term "railway spine" was used to describe a similar condition that was common in persons involved in train accidents prior to 1928. The term "whiplash injury" describes damage to both the bone structures and soft tissues, while "whiplash associated disorders" describes a more severe and chronic condition.

Fortunately, whiplash is typically not a life threatening injury, but it can lead to a prolonged period of partial disability. There are significant economic expenses related to whiplash that can reach 30 billion dollars a year in the United States, including:

  • medical care,
  • disability,
  • sick leave,
  • lost productivity, and
  • litigation.

While most people involved in minor motor vehicle 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. Many clinical studies have investigated this issue. Unfortunately, while there will always be people willing to attempt to mislead the system for personal gain, whiplash is a real condition with real symptoms.

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Comment from: 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 22

I fell backwards at work almost five years ago. I fractured both my wrists. Since then I've experienced sharp pains in them both along with migrating numbness and pain that goes up my arms. My balance has been messed up since the fall and I've experienced headaches, shoulder and neck aches, and loss of strength in both hands. Now I'm losing strength in my legs and I'm stuttering. I have to push to urinate and have bowel movements. I didn't experience these symptoms until my fall and they have since discovered I have a herniated disk in my neck to the point of the disc is pushing against my cord & cutting off the fluid to the spinal column. They didn't investigate the disc until late in 2011. I've been told my gate and speech have nothing to do with the injury, and because the disc wasn't found for such a long period of time after my fall it doesn't have anything to do with my initial injury. I've been experiencing most of these problems since the fall but they're getting worse. I've been to two neurologists, three orthopedic doctors, and had three nerve conduction tests, along with physical therapy. Nobody can say the disc was the fault of the fall, and one 1 neurologist said it takes 5-7 years sometimes for the effects of a whiplash to show up. I'm beside myself as far as what to do next or where to turn.

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