Preventing Whiplash Injuries Guide

by allan46 on December 30, 2010

Copyright (c) 2010 Robert Gray

A whiplash injury is a very common injury usually caused by being involved in a road traffic accident. It involves the head and neck being suddenly and forcefully thrown back and forth causing soft-tissue damage to the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Symptoms vary in severity, as does the length of time taken to recover from a whiplash injury, but include pain and stiffness in the neck and lower back, bruising and swelling and restricted movement. Treatment for whiplash injuries includes application of an ice pack, mobility exercises, painkillers, osteopath and chiropractic treatment. For more serious whiplash injuries, where complications have been suffered, surgery is sometimes required. The effect of whiplash injuries must not be underestimated as the sufferer can require time off work (often resulting in lost earnings), time away from their hobbies, an inability to interact with their children and the incurrence of expenses such as the cost of painkillers and prescription charges.

So can anything be done to reduce the risk of sustaining a whiplash injury if you are involved in a road traffic accident? Within the next few years – with the continuing advancement in vehicle technology – new vehicle braking systems will be introduced as will the installation of mounted laser devices. Laser devices are able to detect potential hazards before they give rise to an accident allowing the driver more time to react and take action to avoid a collision. However, before these advances in technology become common place in our vehicles there are other things we can do to reduce the risk of sustaining a whiplash injury. Common sense and efficient driving is probably our best tool. If you ensure that you always keep a safe distance from the car in front you should have more time to brake in the event that the car in front makes an emergency stop, thus avoiding colliding with the rear of the vehicle. Continually being aware of what the vehicles in front – and behind – are doing can go a long way to ensure you are able to prevent a collision occurring.

In addition, head restraints play an important role in preventing (or reducing the severity of) whiplash injuries. Head restraints are often referred to as ‘head rests’ but contrary to popular belief they are not installed in cars to provide comfort to the driver and/or passengers – indeed, they are there to reduce the risk of serious injury. It is important that head restraints are properly aligned; the head restraint should be as close to the back of your head as possible and the top of the restraint should be no lower than the top of your head. If the head restraint is properly aligned it will significantly reduce the amount that your head is thrown back and forth in the event of an accident which, in turn, will lead to a less severe whiplash injury.

We are all aware of the importance of seatbelts and airbags when travelling in cars. Seatbelts should always be worn, to prevent serious injury in the event of an accident, and unless a small child is being placed in the seat, where fitted an airbag should always be activated. Although seatbelts and airbags are often blamed for exacerbating whiplash injuries during an accident, the effect of not wearing a seatbelt – or not using an airbag – could lead to far, far worse injuries than whiplash in the event of an accident.

To help prevent whiplash injuries in children it is vital to have a correctly fitted car seat which is suitable for the vehicle in which it is being used and which is also suitable for the weight and height of the child. Current guidelines state that children should be placed in rear facing car seats for as long as their height and weight allows.

Although whiplash is a very common injury resulting from road traffic accidents and cannot always be preventable, there are steps that we can all take – drivers and passengers alike – to reduce the risk of injury.

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