When you hear the word “sprained,” chances are you might imagine a badly rolled ankle, a sore shoulder, or even a swollen wrist. However, for those who have had the misfortune of being rear-ended by another vehicle, the word “sprained” may conjure up an entirely different image.
A sprained neck—popularly known as “whiplash”—occurs most often in motor vehicle accidents. When a car is hit from behind, the force of the impact will cause the passenger’s head to snap backward as the rest the body projects forward. In such situations, the neck of the passenger hyperextends and will often result in a sprain. Just as with an ankle or a shoulder, the severity of the sprain will depend on the degree of hyperextension.
Unfortunately, rear-end collisions are not the only types of automobile accidents in which the neck can be sprained. The same injury can occur when a car comes in contact with a solid object while moving in a forward direction. Instead of snapping backward as it would during a rear-end collision, the neck projects forward while the rest of the body suddenly stops. Though the direction of the impact is different, the result remains the same.
While the sprain itself occurs almost instantly, it may take several hours (or even days!) for pain and discomfort to set in. For this reason, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible following an auto accident. Injuries resulting from an accident become harder to prove as time goes by, particularly if there is minimal medical care after the accident. So it is imperative that everything be documented as soon as possible. A sprained neck will hurt a lot worse if you are left to foot the resulting medical bills yourself.