Consequences of a Whiplash Injury

A whiplash injury is commonly seen after a motor vehicle crash but does often occur in neck trauma in everyday life such as sporting injuries. The mechanism of injury is a hyper-flexion motion followed by a hyper-extension motion where the head is thrust forward and then backwards at speed. 80% of people involved in a car collision will experience a whiplash injury and 80% of people who are x-rayed exhibit ligament instability in the cervical spine. The injury is basically caused by spinal derangement due to the acceleration speed after impact which creates buckling of the anatomical structures which leads to the ligament instability

The unfortunate aftermath of a whiplash injury is ligament and disc damage which creates an s-shaped curve of the cervical spine (Panjabi et. al 1997) as opposed to a health c-shaped spine (a lordosis). These resultant soft tissue injuries create disc and joint degeneration (aka arthritis) and the loss of the natural curve of the neck affects the haemo-dynamics of the vertebral artery resulting in a compromised blood flow to the brain.

A whiplash is commonly diagnosed following neck trauma and the prognosis is usually communicated as “it’s only whiplash and you will be ok.”

If you ever are unfortunate enough to have a car accident, please contact a Chiropractor with x-rays facilities to get your neck checked for ligament instability and an assessment to check if you would be at risk of developing arthritis.

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