Whiplash is a non-medical term typically describing what happens to the head and neck when a person is struck from behind in a motor vehicle collision. Let’s look at some basic facts about whiplash:
- Before cars, trains were the main source of whiplash and was called “railroad spine.”
- Better terms for whiplash injuries include “cervical acceleration-deceleration” (CAD) which describes the mechanism of the injury, and/or the term “whiplash associated disorders” (WAD), which describes the residual injury symptoms.
- Whiplash is one of the most common non-fatal injuries involved in car crashes.
- There are over one million whiplash injuries per year due to car crashes alone.
- An estimated 3.8 per 1,000 people per year sustain a whiplash injury.
- In the United States alone, 6.2% of the population has “late whiplash syndrome” (symptoms that do not resolve after one year).
- 1 in 5 cases (20%) remain symptomatic at one year post-injury of which only 11.5% returned to work and only 35.4% of that number returned to the same level of work after 20 years.
- The majority of whiplash cases occur in the fourth decade of life, females>males.
- Whiplash can occur from slips, falls, and brawls, as well as from horse-riding, cycling injuries, and contact sports.
- Injury from whiplash can occur at speeds of 15 mph or less.
- In the “classic” rear end collision, there are four phases of injury (time: 300msec)
- 1.) Initial (0msec) – before the collision (the neck is stable)
- 2.) Retraction (1-150msec) – “whiplash” starts where the head/neck stay in the original position but the trunk is moving forwards by the car seat. This is where the “S” shaped curve occurs (viewing the spine from the side).
- 3.) Extension (150-200msec) – the whole neck bends backwards (hopefully stopped by a properly placed head rest).
- 4.) Rebound (200-300msec) – the tight, stretched muscles in the front of the neck propels the head forward immediately after the extension phase.
simply cannot voluntarily contract our neck muscles fast enough to
avoid injury, as injury to the neck occurs within 500msec. and voluntary
contraction or bracing takes 800msec or longer.
Injury is worse
when the seat is reclined as the body can “ramp” up and over the seat
and headrest. Also, a springy seat back increases the rebound effect.
treatment is better than waiting for a long time. Chiropractic spinal
manipulation is a highly effective treatment option.