A sudden movement of the neck associated with extension or forceful backward bending is often associated with a non-medical term called “whiplash.” The medical term, cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) most often refers to what happens during car accidents whereas “whiplash associated disorders” (WAD) describe the injury’s residual signs and symptoms.
WAD or CAD most commonly occurs during car collisions, when a vehicle is struck from behind. However, other causes include bicycle injuries, falls from ladders and horse related injuries. Car accidents alone cause over 1 million WAD injuries in the United States on an annual basis, with an estimated 3.8 cases per 1,000 people per year. It is estimated that 6.2 percent of the US population has long term problems associated with WAD, often referred to as “late whiplash syndrome.”
So how does whiplash occur? The neck consists of 7 vertebrae, 6 disks, 8 pairs of nerves, and the muscles, ligaments, and other “soft tissues.” Injuries occur in four phases, initial, retractions, extension, and rebound, within 300 msec. It takes about 800 msec to voluntarily contract a muscle, making it impossible to prepare for impact which usually takes place in the lower part of the neck between 150 and 300 msec. Certain factors may affect the seriousness of the injury including the seat back rebound, the seat back angle, head rest position, direction the head is positioned during impact, the size of the vehicles involved, and gender (females have greater risk of injury due to a thinner, less muscular neck).
Many people assume that WAD can only occur during high speed crashes, but the reality is that WAD can occur at speeds less than 15 mph due to less crash energy absorption by crushing metal. Because there is less car damage at lower speeds, that energy is transferred to the people inside of the car. The most common symptoms associated with WAD include neck and upper back pain, headaches, pain into the mid-back and down an arm and sometimes legs. These symptoms can be immediate to delayed for days. In order to successfully treat WAD, immediate treatment is necessary and patients should be placed under chiropractic care.
If you, a friend or family member requires care for whiplash, please give us a call today to schedule an appointment at 732-431-2155.