April 18th, 2018
Whiplash syndrome can be a complicated condition to diagnose. It can be caused whenever someone is involved in a car accident with speeds as little as fifteen miles per hour, even if the parties involved were wearing a seatbelt. The condition can also be complicated to diagnose because the symptoms do not always show up right away. The person can experience pain in the neck immediately after the trauma or not for several hours, several days or up to two weeks. All of these situations can constitute whiplash but the more severe cases show up right away.
As soon as you are injured and suspect a whiplash injury, get a diagnosis from an emergency room physician, a chiropractor or a regular doctor. A diagnosis is important to your car accident compensation solicitors because they need to see your medical records and diagnostic information in order to help decide if you have whiplash, if there was another negligent party and how much to file a compensation claim for. Whiplash diagnoses can be hidden in obscure diagnoses like cervical strain, cervical sprain or flexion extension injury to the neck. Make sure your car accident compensation solicitors have the right diagnosis when dealing with your claim.
When you are injured with suspected whiplash injuries, you need to assess the degree of your symptoms. If you have severe symptoms, make sure you keep your head completely still until the emergency medical services or EMS arrives. They will put you into a cervical collar and a long spine board and will transport you by ambulance to the nearest emergency room. There you will be seen by an emergency room physician.
In mild cases, the doctor skips doing an immediate x-ray. He or she will feel all the muscles of the neck and shoulders for stiffness, swelling and tenderness. The doctor will look for abrasions, cuts and bruising. You’ll often see an abrasion or bruising on the shoulder and upper chest because of the seat belt or because of an airbag injury.
The doctor may remove the cervical collar and, if there is minimal tenderness of the back of the neck, he or she will check the range of motion of the neck, both passively and actively. In other words, he or she will move your neck around without your help to see how stiff it is and will then ask you to tip your head forward, backward, side to side and have you twist the neck. He or she will ask you to squeeze their fingers to check to make sure your upper extremity strength is good and will have you move your legs against resistance in case there is a problem with your lower extremity strength. Sensation of your body will be tested, sometimes by poking the skin with a sharp object to see if you have sensation. Your deep tendon reflexes (in your ankles, knees, wrists and elbows) will be checked to see if they are normal.
Doctors who are suspicious of a more serious injury will begin by ordering a plain film of the neck from the front and side. If these are normal, many doctors will remove the cervical collar and allow you to move your neck about. If there is still a suspicion of a more serious injury, such as a cervical cord injury or fracture to the cervical spine, the doctor will do further testing, such as a CT scan (computerized tomography) or MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging), in order to get a better look at the neck, including the muscles. An MRI exam will outline the muscles better than a CT scan, which will need contrast to outline the spinal cord.
If there is any question of nerve damage, the doctor might go on to order an EMG or electromyogram. This is a nerve conduction test that tells if there are any pinched nerves involved or damage to any peripheral nerve. This could mean that swollen muscles, tendons or ligaments are impinging on nerves and affecting the function of the nerve.
Most people take about two weeks to recover their whiplash symptoms so they feel normal. The rest recover over several months to a year. About 18 percent of people still have symptoms after two years and are considered to have chronic symptoms. Let your car accident compensation solicitor know if you have chronic symptoms because this will affect the amount of the compensation claim you receive. Chronic symptoms will generally pay more money than symptoms which eventually resolve.
If your symptoms last longer than two weeks or are considered severe, you may be referred to a physiatrist or to a physical therapist. A physiatrist is a doctor that is trained in the way the body moves, especially after injury. A physical therapist is specially trained to evaluate and treat musculoskeletal injuries like whiplash injuries.
These professionals will re-evaluate you. They will examine your active and passive range of motion to see how strong the neck is and how stiff it might be. Your range of motion includes forward movement, backward movement, sideways tilt and rotational motion of your neck. They will also assess your strength (in your arms, legs and trunk), your sensation (in all parts of the body) and your deep tendon reflexes. Any abnormalities will be noted on your record before the professional begins treatment.
Treatment often begins with deep tissue massage using electrical stimulation or hand work. Then the practitioner works to increase the range of motion of the neck in all directions, focusing especially on the trouble spots. The practitioner can do things like pressure point work that puts deep pressure on a small area of a muscle and allows the muscle to “release” and be less tense. Strengthening exercises are done to get your muscle tone back in a more normal way and things like ice and heat are used to relieve inflammation. In more serious cases, a physiatrist might inject a muscle with hydrocortisone fluid in order to break down the inflammation in that particular muscle. That sort of treatment helps but is rarely done because whiplash involves such a large area of the neck.
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