There are many pre-existing conditions that can complicate whiplash injuries, and lead to a more difficult recovery. These range from physical conditions, such as arthritis, to mental conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Whiplash can affect much more than your neck, and both existing conditions and injuries incurred at the same time as the whiplash can make your whiplash injury more difficult to live with, and can make your whiplash injury take longer to recover from.
Find out how other road traffic accident injuries affect whiplash injuries and recovery from whiplash injuries.
Neck, Spine And Back Injuries
Image by Michael Dorausch
Neck, spine and back injuries preclude exercise and usually restrict movement of the neck. Since gentle exercise of the neck is often recommended for treatment of whiplash, and holding the neck in place (for instance, with a brace) is suspected to prolong and worsen symptoms, there are obvious complications where whiplash is made much worse and lasts much longer than it would have without the neck, spine and back injuries.
The inability to exercise and decreased ability to move, combined with the increased risk of chronic long-term whiplash, means that the chance of developing mental health problems while recovering from whiplash may be increased.
Concussion And Traumatic Brain Injuries
Concussion is a way of referring to mild traumatic brain injury, rating 13-15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. A mild traumatic brain injury will result in confusion and may result in a loss of consciousness. A loss of consciousness at the scene of the accident may reduce the chances of post-traumatic stress disorder, but the long-term effects of even mild traumatic brain injuries are difficult to predict.
Whiplash complicates concussion and vice-versa because it may delay or obstruct a correct diagnosis. A 1998 study of 36 patients concluded that the immediate symptoms of an accident were much the same between those who had suffered head injuries and those who had suffered whiplash, summarising as follows; “the inference is that these two groups of patients have suffered damage at different sites along the balance system pathways, but both of these lesions can lead to similar symptoms”.
The symptoms can be similar insofar-as both concussion and whiplash may well result in dizziness, vertigo, anxiety, insomnia, blurring of vision, headache, dysphagia and numbness or paraesthesia in the arms and legs.
More traumatic brain injuries, involving the loss of consciousness for minutes to hours and confusion for weeks afterwards, but should be easily distinguishable from whiplash.
Living With Whiplash
The chronic effects of whiplash can be extremely difficult to live with, as physical and mental consequences of the road traffic accident start to compound each other. It is important to seek compensation once the full extent of the effects of the whiplash has become clear, and should be worthwhile to seek legal advice as soon as possible after the accident.
Establishing whether you received a concussion or a whiplash injury is also important, and may affect your case.