What is Whiplash?

What is Whiplash?

Having treated thousands of people over 18 years in practice I have come to see common injuries after motor vehicle collisions.  That has to do with the mechanism of the car accidents and the position of the occupants at the time of the accident.  Due to this there are a common set of injuries we see after car accidents.

 

This doesn’t mean that you will for sure have a certain type of injury after a car accident….but it does mean that it is likely that you will.

 

So what do we see?

 

THE most common type of  injury after a car accident is whiplash.  Whiplash is actually NOT a medical term or a diagnosis.  It is more slang and represents the type of injury that occurs.  What is ‘whiplash’?  It is a sprain/strain injury to the ligaments and joints of the spine.

 

At most levels in our spine we have 6 articulations (joints).  2 facet joints above and 2 below plus the disc above and the disc below.  If there are approximately 24 vertebrae in the spine and about 6 articulations per segment then there are approximately 145 articulations (joints) in the spine.  That’s a lot of joints!!!

 

Most of these joints are quite small and are critical in providing normal motion to your spine and body but they also protect delicate nerves and your spinal cord.

For reference: According to GSU’s HyperPhysics Project, a 160 lb person—wearing a seatbelt and traveling at only 30 miles per hour—experiences around 30 g’s of force in a front-end collision with a fixed object. That’s 2.4 tons of force acting on the body!

 

What do you think the likelihood of getting some sort of injury after a collision like that?

 

VERY LIKELY

 

Due to these massive forces that can occur at even lower speeds the spine gets ‘whipped’ around past it’s normal anatomical limits.  When this occurs the ligaments and tendons that support those small joints and your spine get injured.  The muscles that also provide movement to your spine get over-stretched or torn.  This is what whiplash is!  It is the stretching or tearing of the ligaments, tendons or muscles that stabilize the spine.

 

How do you know if you have whiplash?

 

Sometimes this can be a little tricky as sometimes whiplash pain takes days or weeks to show up.  Other times you will have pain right away.  The best thing to do is to be evaluated by someone who knows what whiplash looks like and how to diagnose it.

 

Studies show that the sooner you get evaluated and start treatment after a car accident, the less treatment you will typically need.

 

So the solution is clear…if you have been in an accident, even a small one, get evaluated promptly by someone who knows what they are looking for.
The physicians at Spinal Rehab of North County are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of whiplash and other injuries from car accidents.  If you or someone you know has recently been in a car accident call now to make an appointment 801-492-9300.  There is NO out of pocket cost for the evaluation or treatment if you have been injured in a car accident.
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