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Whiplash 5: Types of Injury

Over the next several weeks, we will post a total of 10 short articles about whiplash injuries from auto collisions, a poorly understood but all too common injury. Our firm handles many such cases and is committed to informing you so you can protect yourself and your family.

5.) Types of Injury

When you consider the instantaneous bending, flexing, twisting, and stretching the neck experiences as it is pushed and pulled by the weight of the head snapping back and forth, the opportunity for injury is obvious. Most people are amazed by the diverse and unusual range of symptoms people suffer.

A.) Brain concussion

A head strike is not necessary to suffer a brain concussion. The rough interior of the skull can damage the jelly-like surface of the brain when rapid acceleration of the head causes the brain to "slosh" back and forth inside the skull. Also brain tissue itself can tear or shear when deformed by these motions.

Sadly many doctors and hospitals miss these injuries which can result in nausea, headaches, confusion, forgetfulness, personality change, visual disturbance, perceiving bad smells, and fatigue. Often a person's significant other is first to note such changes. Most such injuries resolve over time but leave the victim at increased risk of severe injury from any future brain trauma.

B.) Herniated Intervertibral Disc

Each joint in the vertibral column is separated by a "jelly doughnut" disk that allows the spine to flex and twist. These can be crushed flat and/ or the jelly can be squirted out, putting pressure on nerves that exit the spinal cord. The result is pain, numbness or weakness in the neck, shoulder, girdle, arms and hands. Sometimes surgery is required to relieve the pressure or fuse the joint.

C. Facet Joint Injury

Facet joints are the places where the bony prominences on the back of the vertibral bones connect. Muscles and ligaments join them and give the spine extra strength and protection. When these joints are crushed together or ripped apart the cartilage and ligaments are damaged. Although they may heal to a degree they will not be as strong or flexible as they were. Chronic pain and stiffness result and arthritic changes are a near certainty.

D. Muscle and Ligament Sprain/Strain or Tear

When these tissues are stretched and torn they heal with scar tissue that causes pain and limited motion. They are subject to serious re-injury and periodic flare up of pain. If they are actually torn, life threating instability in the spine can result. This requires prompt surgery to reduce pain and headache and to prevent spinal cord damage.

E. TMJ and Inner Ear Damage

When the head snaps back, often the mouth flies open tearing the tissues of the jaw joints. Talking, chewing, and opening the jaw can become very painful. There is often clicking or even locking of the joints. These problems often develop months after the original accident. Ringing in the ears is a complaint often missed by doctors. Some clients are seriously impaired by constant intrusive sounds caused by nerve injury.

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