Vehicle size. When both are equal, even an 8 mph collision produces two times the force of gravity or a 2-G acceleration of the car, and a 5-G acceleration of the head. This magnification of the force gives rise to the name, Whiplash. (G-force is: a force acting on a body as a result of acceleration or gravity, informally described in units of acceleration equal to one G. For example, a 12 pound object undergoing a G-force of 2-G experiences 24 pounds of force).
Headrest position. This can make an injury much worse if too low, and even at the right height, it must be close enough to catch the head in time (about 2 inches). A seat that is reclined to far will increase this distance, as will poor posture and driving habits if leaning forward. The position of the head is important. When turned to the side, for instance, it can only move about half as far as a straightforward position. Hence, all the G forces are localized to one side of the spine, substantially increasing the severity of injuries.
Age – plays an important role because as the body becomes older, ligaments become less pliable, muscles weaker and less flexible, and decreases in range of motion.
Women and children– seem to be injured more seriously than men. This is most notable due to the fact that they tend be shorter. Because of this, they are either too close to the steering wheel/airbag and or have improper fitting shoulder harness/seatbelts.
And pre-existing health problems – such as arthritis, lend to the severity of the injuries.
The chiropractic approach to these types of injuries is to use specific, gentle chiropractic adjustments to help restore spinal function. Chiropractic adjustments (also called spinal manipulations) are one of the only proven remedies for whiplash injuries.
The Quebec Automobile Insurance Society provides all car insurance in the Canadian Province of Quebec. They pay so many whiplash claims that in 1989 they commissioned a task force to study all scientific information on the care of whiplash. After three years reviewing 10,382 articles on neck injuries the society concluded that most interventions for whiplash injuries were unproven. Yet, they recommended spinal manipulations.
Don’t Wait to Get Examined
The myth, “If I don’t have pain right away, I’m O.K.”. Whiplash injuries can seem so slight, at first you don’t even know you are injured, or extremely severe with multiple broken bones. Regardless whether or not there was any damage to the car.
The Truth… Even if you feel normal after an accident, with no symptoms, you should be thoroughly examined. Symptoms can be delayed for days, and in some cased may not surface for years. Worse, whiplash can still be causing symptoms some five years later, and in the long run, can cause secondary problems such as osteoarthritis and premature disc degeneration. This delay in symptoms and the long-term consequences make it very important to get examined after any accident.
References: Stephen M. Forman & Arthur Croft. Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome (Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore), 2nd edition, 1995. “Quebec Task Force Rewrites Whiplash Protocols.” Dynamic Chiropractic, June 5, 1995, Vol. 13, No. 12, p. 28.