Understanding Sprains, Strains and Whiplash Injuries
When people are in car accidents, they are sometimes told that they “only” have whiplash. Whiplash is seen as a mild injury—people will make it sound like you are almost fortunate to have it. Yes, certainly, compared to other back injuries, whiplash is less serious. But make no mistake—whiplash is a serious injury, and a very real one that can have long lasting consequences to victims.
It is unfortunate that we even use the term whiplash, because that word is more like a slang term. When people say whiplash, they really mean that a victim has sustained what is known as a sprain or a strain—essentially, an injury to tendons or ligaments in the neck or lower back area.
What is a Sprain?
A sprain is damage to ligaments that connect bone to each other. You’ve probably seen a model human skeleton. The bones at the joints—say, at the shoulder, or at the knee—need to be held together by something, in order for them to work. They are held together by ligaments.
What is a Strain?
But bones aren’t just held close to each other—there is also muscle attached to our bones that help them move. The muscles attach to the bones through ligaments. When these ligaments are injured, it is called a strain.
Collectively, the injuries may be called “sprain/strain,” as both involve ligaments, and there often is no difference between which particular one the victim has suffered.
Back Sprains and Strains
Just like at your joints, the muscles (vertebrae) in your back, also utilize ligaments to hold them together, and to bind them to your musculature. So, when you suffer a “whiplash” type injury, what we are really saying is that the ligaments that bind your vertebrae to each other, or to your muscles, have been injured, or torn.
The more severe the tear, the more pain you’ll feel—and the more your range of motion may be affected. Many people with sprains and strains have trouble moving in certain directions—that makes sense, given the ligaments are involved whenever your muscles contract, or whenever bones move near to each other.
Hard to See and Diagnose
Sprains and strains can be difficult to diagnose, because they do not appear on standard X-rays, which are the tests that most emergency rooms will give. An emergency room X-ray may show you as being just fine—but your ligaments were never measured or seen by the X-ray.
After the accident, you may be sent for an MRI, which can measure whether you have sustained a sprain or strain. Or, your doctor may be able to diagnose you, without needing any scans.
Sprains and sprains can heal completely—or they can never fully heal. Everybody is different, and the severity of the injury can often dictate whether or not you will have a complete recovery.
If you have suffered a back or neck injury in an accident, let us help you. Call our Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. today at 617-275-4200 to see whether you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.