Whiplash is the most commonly reported injury from motor vehicle accidents, and are on the rise. Today we will review the current literature on rear-end motor vehicle whiplash accidents and the associated disorders and injuries.
In 2016 a study was published in The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy titled "Whiplash associated disorders: occupant kinematics and neck morphology" (see link below). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27690838. This paper is the culmination of thirty years of research and attempts to prevent whiplash injuries.
While whiplash is commonly reported, the term is often actually misused. This study states that it has been confused with the description of the symptomatology, when it’s actually the description of the type of injury. So when someone complains of whiplash, it’s actually whiplash associated disorders or WAD.
So how do whiplash injuries occur? In the initial phase, the head and upper neck move backward and flex downward, hyper-extending the lower neck and pushing the torso forward. This creates an unnatural S curve shape of the cervical spine which can injury the ligaments, tendons, muscles, joints, bones, and nerves. In second phase, the head moves backwards behind the torso and the cervical spine, decelerating in cervical extension to the point that the joints in the cervical spine are generally taken to their end ranges of motion and often slightly beyond. Finally, the head returns to what will now be its new normal positioning over the cervical spine as the momentum and force has left the body (See Figure 1 below). Whiplash is more common in females, or people with smaller neck bones and muscles because the size and thickness of the structures can actually stave off some of the injury components.
Preexisting conditions of the cervical curve (or lack thereof) can be somewhat of a predictor for injury during an accident. A "lordotic" or C-shaped cervical curve is important in dealing with stresses and traumas in the body as it acts like a shock absorber. However, if someone has a preexisting misaligned spine with either a straightening of the cervical curve or a kyphotic (backwards) curve, a whiplash type injury can create instability from the forces being displaced in a pathological pattern during the moment of the accident (see Figure 2 below). https://idealspine.com/your-neck-curvature-will-help-you-or-hurt-you-if-youre-involved-in-a-car-crash/
This paper gives a great synopsis of whiplash associated disorders. If you or someone you know has recently been in a rear-end whiplash type accident, they could benefit from an assessment by an Upper Cervical Chiropractor. Want to learn more? Come to our Dinner with Doc on Whiplash event September 27 at the Atlantic Grill in Rye, NH! A complimentary dinner is included. Reserve your seat today by calling the office at 603-380-9184 or my visiting our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/303242203766079/