Neck Injuries Won’t Just Bounce Back

Mention the term “whiplash,” and many people will roll their eyes and think a personal injury attorney can’t be far behind.

It is true the word “whiplash” is an imprecise catchall to describe severe pain and stiffness caused when the head suddenly moves backward and forward like the cracking of a whip. However, new medical research and technologies are helping to document and prove exactly what happens to the spine in those moments, which are common during serious motor vehicle collisions.

Ligaments are dense tissues that connect bones. They provide a structural integrity to various parts of the body from the neck to the foot. Long-term studies are providing hard evidence that when ligaments supporting the cervical spine are stretched too far during the motions associated with whiplash, these ligaments often will never heal themselves. When this happens, a patient is left with ligament laxity, or too much movement between cervical vertebrae. In many patients, this condition — called Alteration of Motion Segment Integrity, or AOMSI — leads to premature osteoarthritis. Even if a patient with AOMSI is not suffering from pain in the cervical spine today, the laxity of cervical spine ligaments almost certainly will be an issue later in life.

A good way to understand the problems caused by ligament laxity is to imagine a flat-bed truck with a load strapped down. Ligament laxity is like a loose tie-strap that allows the load to shift around. Patients suffering from AOMSI have too much movement between vertebrae in the cervical spine.

To understand the significance of this diagnosis, consider that even a 13 percent impairment of the structural integrity of one cervical ligament corresponds to a 25 percent Whole Person Impairment, according to the American Medical Association.

It is important for people who have been injured in a manner consistent with “whiplash” to seek immediate medical attention. Within the first 24 hours after a crash, be mindful of:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches, most commonly at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

In some cases, accident victims also may experience difficulty concentrating, memory problems, a ringing in the ears, disturbance of sleep and irritability. It’s time to call the doctor when pain spreads into the shoulder or arms; it becomes painful to move the head; or if there is numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms.

While getting immediate medical attention for these symptoms is paramount, getting a qualified personal injury attorney to help deal with the insurance company is almost as important. A good personal injury lawyer will help secure an insurance settlement that covers medical bills, rehabilitation and the loss of future wages. Personal injury lawyers also can help find doctors who specialize in the treatment of AOMSI.

If you have been injured in a crash, give yourself the best chance of recovery by contacting the personal injury attorneys at Fuller Law. Remember: It isn’t “just whiplash,” but a possible life-altering event.

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