Traumatic cervical syndrome, or whiplash, is one of the most common auto accident injuries. Whiplash happens when the neck is forced through a series of movements at a rate faster than the bones, muscles, and ligaments can accommodate. The crash forces the head forward slightly, then backward violently, forward to recoil (though less forcefully), and finally to a neutral, stationary position. Injury to the neck occurs in both the backward movement, in which the neck is hyperextended, and in the forward flexion, when the chin hits the chest. Types of injuries that might occur include torn muscles and ligaments, nerve inflammation, and vertebral misalignment. Symptoms like swelling and/or tenderness in the neck, sore throat and/or loss of voice, trouble swallowing, jaw problems, shoulder and back pain, vomiting, and flashing lights in the visual field are common with these injuries.
As with other minor accident injuries, a person suffering from whiplash may not realize the extent of injury for a few days. The victim will then notice pain during movement of the neck as well as loss of motion or stiffness when the head is tipped back. Other symptoms of whiplash include light headedness or dizziness, difficulty in concentration, short-term memory loss, insomnia, painful tingling sensations, weakness in the muscles of the neck and shoulder, visual disturbances or blurred vision, and ringing in the ears.
It would not be surprising for the victim to also experience fatigue and irritability. The trauma of the event itself, added to pain and disability created stress that may linger even into the stages of treatment and recovery.
Understanding what to do when an accident happens and what types of injuries can occur may save you time, money and long-term medical care, but a prompt physical examination is the best advice.