Whiplash from a Car Wreck

Whiplash is a term used to describe neck pain after a trauma involving quick acceleration and deceleration of the body, like in an automobile accident, but not limited to that.  It can happen from blows to the head in a fight or during a sporting event.


Signs and symptoms of whiplash are neck pain and/or headaches.  You may also suffer from shoulder pain, tingling in the arms, fatigue, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, memory problems, and even depression.  These may not appear immediately, they might even take a few weeks to appear.  They also may come later as the condition worsens if left untreated.

The forces placed on the body during an automobile accident are great enough to injure the vertebral discs, ligaments and even fracture the vertebral bone itself.  The amount of damage to the vehicle is not related to the amount of injury to the person in the car. Aspects more important than damage to the car are if you braced before impact, your position in the car during impact, and where the vehicle was hit.

If you see or even hear the tires of the other vehicle squeal your body will tighten up and brace for the impact.  This is your body’s natural defense mechanism and while it will not totally prevent injury, it can lessen it to some extent.  If your head is turned right before impact or if the car is hit from the side forcing your head to whip from side to side, this will greatly increase the amount of damage to the spine as your spine doesn’t move as much side to side as it can forward and backward.  The ligaments are much tighter in this direction which means they can not use movement to absorb the force when going sideways.


I have seen many whiplash cases during my 20 years of practice as a Chiropractor and no two are alike even though the damage may appear similar.  I have had 55-year-old women heal better than their younger children because they braced for impact and the child was turned to change the radio station when the impact occurred.  The sooner you get treated the better your chance for full recovery soft tissue (ligament) damage takes longer to heal than a broken bone.

By: Gary F. De Mott, D.C. Action Chiropractic Inc.

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