Whiplash injuries can still be a medical mystery. Find out why and what to do if you’ve experience one in this post.

“Whiplash” is sometimes viewed negatively these days. Some people have the perception that it’s something a car accident injury victim makes up to get money.

But it’s definitely a legitimate injury. So even though some people have a negative perception of whiplash injuries, don’t let that make you feel ashamed or guilty if you’ve truly experienced whiplash from a car accident.

What is “Whiplash” Anyway?

“Whiplash” technically isn’t a medical term. It’s a layperson’s term. Medical and legal literature calls whiplash an “acceleration/deceleration” or “hyper-flexion/hyper-extension” injury. About three million whiplash injuries happen each year, with about 50% of those causing chronic pain issues.

Typically, whiplash involves one or more of these symptoms:

  1. Neck pain
  2. Upper back pain
  3. Shoulder pain
  4. Difficulty thinking clearly
  5. Numbness
  6. Tingling
  7. Weakness in your hands
  8. Dizziness

While car accidents are the leading cause of whiplash injuries, they’re not the only cause. What’s more is that medical researchers Gargan and Bannister found whiplash injuries can result in “bizarre and seemingly unrelated symptoms.” Traditional medical tests like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans won’t reveal these symptoms. Often these are soft-tissue injuries to your ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Without objective evidence, insurance companies will obviously do everything they can to make you look like a liar and not pay for your injuries.

Startling Stats Reveal the Seriousness of Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash injuries can be quite mysterious, and their effects can last much of your life. Check out some of these amazing stats to give you a better sense of their seriousness:

  1. About 15-40% of car accident victims will have chronic pain for the rest of their lives (Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 2007)
  2. Whiplash injuries increase your chances of back and neck pain, and your probability of seemingly unrelated health problems (Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 2001)
  3. 100% of people with pain resulting from whiplash injuries have abnormal psychological profiles that can only be cured by relieving their back and neck pain and headaches. Counseling and psychiatry did not improve the pain or psychology of these individuals (Pain, 1997).
  4. Two decades after their accident, 55% of patients with whiplash injuries still struggle with chronic pain (Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2002)
  5. No relationship exists between the severity of your injury and the damage that happens in your car accident.

How Do You Treat Whiplash Injuries When Your Doctor Says They Only Exist in Your Head?

If your doctor says this, you have to find a new doctor. As was discussed before, whiplash injuries don’t always show up clearly, even on the most advanced medical tests available (X-rays, MRIs, CT scans).

In the 1994 issues of Spine, whiplash injury victims at the time took more than seven months to heal from their injuries. And if your injuries take more than 90 days to heal, standard treatment approaches become much less likely to help you.

When you seek treatment for a whiplash injury, make sure you ask your doctor about their experiences in treating whiplash injury victims. And keep looking for doctors until you find one with intimate understanding of whiplash injury treatment. It’s tricky, even for the brightest doctors, to treat.