What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is more than neck pain.  It is a powerful force.  Like the sudden, sharp snap of a whip, it hurls your head backward (hyperextension) and forward (hyperflexion), injuring your neck.

A car accident, sports injury, or simply a push from behind – all can cause a whiplash injury.  You can also have “hidden whiplash” since symptoms don’t always appear right away.  

ASIC Rehab chiropractors are specialists uniquely trained to diagnose and treat whiplash, relieve its symptoms, and help prevent more serious injuries from developing.

Understanding Whiplash

Your neck does much more than simply connect your head to the rest of your body.  Without your neck, you couldn’t hold up your head, or turn it easily from one side to the other.  

Many complex parts of your neck work together to perfrom a delicate balancing act.  But your neck is fragile part of your body as well. 

When the powerful force of whiplash strikes, your head is tossed around like the head of  flimsy rag doll.  Your neck can be seriously injured.  Then it is unable to move and support your head the way it normally does.  If not corrected early, whiplash can lead to problems, such as arthritic degeneration.  

Before Whiplash: Your Neck’s Delicate Balancing Act

Imagine balancing a 10-lb bowling ball on the end of a stick.  That’s the delicate balancing act your neck performs throughout the day.  Soft tissue is really the only thing keeping your head poised on the top of your spine.  If your cervical spine (the bones in your neck) is aligned and neck anatomy healthy, your head’s weight is evenly balanced.

The Powerful Force of Whiplash

Whiplash turns your head’s weight into a powerful force, hurling your neck past its normal range of motion.  In the typical whiplash injury, your head is whipped backward, injuring muscles, ligaments, discs, and other structures.  As your head whips forward, its speed doubles, increasing the force on your neck.  If your head is turned to the side, an injury is often more severe.

How do whiplash injuries happen?

Whiplash injuries are most commonly associated with motor vehicle collisions (MVC), although they can happen from anything that results in a sudden movement of the head—from slip and fall injuries, carnival rides, sports-related injuries, and more. When associated with MVCs, the terms “acceleration/deceleration injury” or “whiplash associated disorders (WAD)” are often applied, depending on the direction of the collision. When the striking vehicle rear-ends the target vehicle, the term “acceleration/deceleration injury” is used. 

Why is the neck so vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions?

We are often asked why the neck is so vulnerable to injury in a MVC. The simple answer is the head, which weighs about 12-15 pounds (~5-7 kg), is supported by the neck and not all necks have the same length, strength, and mass. This is the reason women (especially those with longer, thin necks) are most vulnerable to the forces that occur in a WAD injury. Another reason whiplash injury can occur is the relatively “slow” speed at which we can voluntarily contract our muscles (>600 msec.) vs. relatively fast speed at which a typical rear-end collision takes to move the head on the neck during whiplash (~300 msec.)! Though the whiplash time duration will vary somewhat, depending on the speed of the collision, angle of the seat back, the distance between the head and the headrest, the “springiness” of the seat back, the weight of the two vehicles, the slipperiness of the road, if the brakes are locked, (…AND MORE!), here’s a typical breakdown of what takes place in a rear-end collision (within a 300 millisecond “typical” time frame):

How long does whiplash last?

The degree and duration of injury are affected by all the items previously listed above and more. For example, if the headrest is more than two inches (~5 cm) away from the back of the head, and/or if “ramping” occurs and the head “misses” the headrest, hyper-extension can result and the soft tissues in the front of the neck can become over-stretched and/or the back of the neck can become over-compressed. Or if the rebound phase into flexion exceeds the tissue capacities, the back part of the neck can become over-stretched and the front part over-compressed.  

It takes time to heal a whiplash injury.  But with early diagnosis and treatment, your chiropractor can correct your spinal problem, help speed your healing and relieve the pain and stiffness that you may feel.  

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Whiplash, we would be honored to render our services.


After Whiplash: Your Neck Out of Balance

After a whiplash injruy, your neck’s balance is upset.  Your neck’s natural curve may be reversed, which unenly distributes your head’s weight and further misaligns your vertebrae.  Your fragile, damaged neck must now strain to hold up your head.  If not corrected, scarring – and even arthritic degeneration may develop.  You may also have recurring pain.