Interesting Facts About Whiplash

We all know the most common causes of “whiplash” are injuries that typically arise from automobile accidents or, motor vehicle collisions (MVC’s) although whiplash can also occur from slip and fall and virtually, any injury where your head is whipped backwards. But there are many things about whiplash you may not be aware of, which is the reason for this month’s Heath Update on whiplash.

For example, did you know the effect whiplash has on public health (in general) is tremendous? The number of cases occurring annually is frequently quoted as 1,000,000 per year, but this is based on an outdated (1971) and incomplete dataset. A more recent figure of 3 million per year is considered to be more accurate because it’s based on several governmental databases and it accounts for the expected number of unreported cases by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).  That’s a huge difference!  The updated figure accounts for whiplash victims not attended to by emergency medical services. In less catastrophic accidents, the injured party may not appear to be significantly injured at the scene of the MVC and decline emergency care and hence, the MVC will to unreported to a governmental data collection center.

Another interesting study surveyed over 3500 chiropractors who were asked if they commonly applied cervical (neck) spinal manipulation to patients who had known herniated or protruded disks (in their neck). Over 90% of the chiropractors indicated they found it safe and effective to utilize cervical adjustments (manipulation) in this patient population. It is VERY important for you to know this as frequently, you may be told by your medical doctor (or next door neighbor), “…don’t let anyone crack your neck!” Now, you can rest assured that in the experience of MANY chiropractors (not just me), significant benefits can be achieved by this treatment approach.  Moreover, the sooner neck adjustments are applied, the better the results – so don’t wait to get a chiropractic treatment after an MVC!

Another interesting study investigated the “proper” or “best” seated position in a car during a rear-end collision, based on an analysis of many previously published studies on this topic.  Because the seated position of the person involved in a MVC is related to the degree of the injury, the factors studied included the angle of the seat back, seat-bottom angle, the density of the foam in the seatback, the height above the floor [of the knees], and the presence of armrests in cars.  They found that the seat back angle of 110-130 degrees reduced disk pressure and low back muscle activity but 110 degrees – MAX. – was found to minimize the forward positioning of the head. A 5 degree downwards tilt of the seat bottom further reduced the pressure in the low back disks and muscle activity as measured by EMG (electromyography).  The use of armrests and the use of a lumbar support were also found to be important to reduce injuries associated with MVCs.  This combination was reported to be optimum for all of us to use in order to minimize the bodily injury in a rear-end MVC. Other important factors included firm dense foam in the seat back, an adjustable seat bottom (for angle, height, and front to back distance), horizontal & vertical lumbar support adjustments (…best if they pulsate to reduce the static load encountered in a crash), seat shock absorbers, and seat adjustments for front to back to adjust for different patient heights.