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Whiplash was originally referred to as rail spine. It was an injury to the necks of passengers of trains in the 1800's. It was caused by sudden starts and stops of the trains. Today the term whiplash is commonly used to refer to an injury of the neck when the head is violently thrown back and forth in an automobile collision; usually a rear-end collision.
A whiplash injury generally occurs when a car is rear-ended and the head is thrown backwards into the headrest and then forward. Most of the time this violent whipping action occurs so fast that most people when asked what happened will say they were thrown forward without even realizing that they were thrown backwards first.
The forces from a whiplash collision can cause ripping, stretching, and tearing of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the neck. Whiplash can also cause displacement of bones in the spine and damage the shock absorbers that sit between the bones of the spine (discs).
Whiplash injuries rarely cause broken bones so the injuries generally will not show up on a x-ray. Consequently, when a person with whiplash is taken to the emergency room immediately after an automobile collision the x-ray will appear normal. The common symptoms of whiplash are pain, stiffness, muscle spasms, limited range of motion and headaches. Swelling, redness and heat are often present within 24-48 hours. Other less common symptoms but certainly symptoms that can occur due to whiplash include nausea, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and numbness or tingling going down into the arms.
Whiplash injuries heal through the placement of a scar tissue called collagen. Without proper treatment the scar tissue can limit range of motion and attach to nerves, ligaments, and other areas where it is not supposed to attach resulting in permanent pain and stiffness.
Although many whiplash injuries can heal, a number of studies have shown conclusively that whiplash injury conditions can result in permanent pain, limited range of motion and disability for the rest of a person's life. If you have experienced a whiplash injury it is no laughing matter and you need a lawyer experienced in dealing with whiplash injuries.