Whiplash most common injury in car crashes

Every 17 seconds, a back-end vehicle crash occurs in the U.S., and Tennessee has its share of them. According to Consumer Reports, neck strain and sprains, or whiplash, are the injuries motorists most often report. Whiplash occurs when your head is snapped backward, hyperextending the neck and causing damage to nerves and ligaments. Often, the pain and stiffness that occurs in whiplash lingers for several days and can occur during crashes in which cars are traveling as slow as 10 mph.

Since government standards for higher and closer head restraints in cars were phased in from 2005 to 2009, they have helped reduce the effects of whiplash on front-seat passengers and drivers. However, headrests in the rear seat continue to lack the height and proximity to passengers' heads to be effective in easing whiplash injuries.

Veritas Health explains that most whiplash injuries are the result of car crashes in which the injured person's car is hit from behind. Neck strain is when a tendon or muscle in the neck is stretched to the point of tearing. It usually heals itself in several days to several weeks and can result in a mild pain or one that is strong enough to be debilitating. A sprain refers to the same injury to a ligament, which results in similar pain.

It may sound like neck pain is a minor issue. However, depending on which muscles are involved, whiplash can cause pain and stiffness when you move your head, jaw, neck, shoulders and upper back. In more serious neck strains, there is increased inflammation and pain, which typically takes longer to heal.

It is important for accident victims to know that pain from a neck strain may not occur for several hours following the crash. At times, symptoms begin so slowly you may not link it to the accident. It is a good idea for anyone involved in an accident to seek medical attention. If whiplash pain worsens instead of easing after a few days, or you experience weakness, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, you should seek medical attention.

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