Car wrecks, even minor ones, can have significant and lasting impacts on the human body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 3 million people each year experience whiplash. Understanding how whiplash occurs and whether it can lead to permanent damage is important for those navigating the aftermath of a car accident.
How does a car accident cause whiplash?
The primary cause of whiplash in a car accident is sudden stopping and accelerating, which happens during rear-end collisions. The force of a car hitting from behind propels the front vehicle forward while the unrestrained head lags before catching up with the rest of the body. Surprisingly, injury can still occur when cars are traveling slower than 10 miles per hour.
What are the mechanics of whiplash?
The physical mechanics of whiplash occur in the following steps:
- Sudden impact – The forceful impact of a car accident causes the vehicle occupants’ bodies to move rapidly and unexpectedly
- Neck hyperextension – The head thrusts backward beyond its normal range of motion, hyperextending the neck
- Rebound effect – The head rebounds forward, undergoing rapid flexion, sometimes extending beyond its usual position
These forceful whip-like movements strain soft tissues in the neck, resulting in whiplash injuries.
Is whiplash a permanent injury?
Whiplash injuries, while painful and inconvenient, are not usually permanent. Most individuals recover with time and appropriate medical treatment, which may include rest, physical therapy and pain management.
However, in some cases, whiplash symptoms may persist for an extended period, leading to a condition known as chronic whiplash. Symptoms of chronic whiplash include long-term pain and stiffness. While rare, this condition may have a more prolonged impact on an individual’s daily life.
If you experience pain in your neck after a car accident, seek prompt medical attention. Early intervention and proper care can contribute to the successful recovery from whiplash injuries and minimize the risk of long-term effects.