Whiplash is a reasonably common injury that strikes a person’s neck due to an abrupt acceleration-deceleration force, most typically from motor vehicle collisions. In 1928 the term “railway spine” was used to describe a similar problem that prevailed in people involved in train crashes. Whiplash trauma damages the bone frameworks and soft tissues, while “whiplash associated disorders” are more persistent and serious problems.
What triggers whiplash?
Whiplash is most typically induced by a motor vehicle accident – particularly when the vehicle the individual is sitting in is stationary, and is struck from behind by another vehicle. Research studies conducted with high-speed video cameras and sophisticated accident dummies have determined that, after the impact, the lesser cervical vertebrae (lesser bones in the neck) are hyper-extended, while the upper cervical vertebrae (top bones in the neck) are in a hyper-flexed position. This brings about an uncommon S-shape in the cervical spine, different to the normal movement. It is this motion that’s believed to damage the soft tissues that keep the cervical vertebrae together (the ligaments, facet capsules, muscles etc).
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