What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a fairly common injury that happens to the neck after a sudden acceleration and deceleration force. Whiplash associated with motor vehicle accidents is typically the result of a rear impact injury while the person is sitting in the vehicle. The cause of whiplash has to do with the hyperextension of the lower cervical vertebrae (bones in the neck) while the upper cervical vertebrae are in a hyper flexed position. See below:
The term “whiplash” was first used in 1928 and it came from the term “railway spine” which was used to describe a similar injury that happened to people that were involved in train accidents. Over one third of collisions are rear-ending (Del Palomar, 2008) of that third 40% of the victims suffer whiplash. Research has shown that whiplash can occur at almost any speed (Crouch et al, 2006). This means, you can still get whiplash at slower speeds. It should be noted that a whiplash injury is not always caused by motor vehicle accidents. It can also occur from sports and other high impact activities.
The following video will give you a better picture of what happens to your head from the impact of a collision
There are two terms that are used to describe Whiplash:
1. Whiplash Injury – refers to the damage to the bones, muscles and ligaments in the neck
2. Whiplash Associated Disorders – refers to more of the severe and chronic disorders. Although variable and difficult to predict, and a source of debate in the medical community, Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) is one of the most common diagnosis following a motor vehicle accident (Suissa, 2003; Kwan and Friel, 2003).
How the Muscles get hurt in Whiplash Injuries
These muscles are responsible for assisting the anterior neck muscles (the muscles on the front of your neck) keep your head in a normal upright position. They also are the muscles that shrug your shoulders up towards your ears and help your arms stabilize the shoulder joint when carrying or lifting objects. In a car accident, these muscles get stretched out in a manner that stretches them beyond their normal range of motion. The force of the head whipping forwards stretches the muscles at the back of the neck followed by the head whipping backwards causes whiplash.
What are the main Muscles that get hurt in Whiplash?
There are large muscle groups that get injured in whiplash. The posterior neck muscles (the ones that run from the top of your shoulders to the top of your neck) that are most affected are the trapezius muscles, levator scapulae and the cervical spinal erectors.
To get more information on the Trapezius muscle click on the link below (hint – click on the blue words to see how the muscle moves in the body):
To get more information on the Levator Scapulae muscle click on the link below (hint – click on the blue words to see how the muscle moves in the body):