Personal Injury: What Is Whiplash?

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What is whiplash? Is it a serious injury? Yes, it most certainly is. Whiplash happens when, during an often traumatic event, the head and neck get unexpectedly forced back and forth. These rapid motions can put extreme stress on the cervical spine. The most common symptom is neck pain, which can range from mild to severe. Other symptoms of whiplash injuries can include a reduced range of neck motion, stiffness in the neck, shoulder pain, upper back pain, headache, tingling, numbness, or weakness that can extend into the shoulder area or down the arm.


Rear-end vehicle collisions are notorious for producing whiplash. The severity and the way in which whiplash can be brought about by a car collision is dependent on many factors, including the angle from which you get hit. Typically, the collision happens behind you, which can result in the following:

  • If your vehicle gets rear-ended, it can cause your seat to push against your back. The spine can get compressed when that happens and get jammed upward toward your neck and head.
  • The cervical spine can become unnaturally shaped like an S-curve. The compression and force that accompanies this action can cause damage to invertebrate discs and joints.
  • The back of the car seat accelerates forward, while the head is snapping backwards, causing neck injuries.
  • Then, the reverse can happen, and the head bounces off the back of the seat rest and forward again, with a force.
  • The seatbelt (which every passenger of a moving vehicle should be wearing) restrains the body, but the head and neck areas can still get whipped around, thus resulting in whiplash conditions.

Speed does not always factor into whether a person gets whiplash or not. Whiplash injuries have been shown to occur at only 10 mph. As well, the exterior of the car does not have to “appear” severely damaged for whiplash to still occur within the interior of the vehicle. Often, forces that may appear to bypass the car’s exterior travel instead to the interior, causing injury to the body.


While everyone who experiences any kind of pain at all after a motor vehicle accident is urged to seek immediate medical attention, some signs should be of particular concern. These include:

  • When the neck isn’t stable – you can’t get it to stay stable
  • Numbness, a tingling sensation, or weakness that extends into a shoulder, down an arm and/or into a hand
  • Balance or coordination issues
  • Drastic departure from normal behavior and mannerisms, such as can be caused by depression, increased irritability, insomnia, and/or having trouble focusing


While most people who sustain a whiplash injury can recover in about three months, studies throughout the years have shown that many people will still struggle with chronic pain from the injury for the rest of their lives. Additional factors that can play into a whiplash injury lasting longer include:

  • Age – the older a person is who sustains such an injury, the longer period of time it can take to recover
  • Gender – women often have more recurring pain from this type of injury than men
  • PTSD – if the individual who suffers a whiplash injury is also suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), recovery can take longer
  • Severity – if the severity of the whiplash injury is extremely painful at the time of the onset, it can take more time to recover

If you or a loved one have been in a motor vehicle accident in or around Pinellas and you think you may have incurred a whiplash injury, speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.