Anatomy of Whiplash Associated Disorders


Say “whiplash” and most of us immediately think about car accident. You are rear ended as you sit at a stop sign, and your head flies forwards, then backwards. It certainly does whip back and forth, so even though “whiplash” isn’t technically a medical term, it is a quite precise description of what occurs—and what can cause so much pain.

Doctors call whiplash a neck sprain or strain. Other technical medical terms related to whiplash are hyperflexion and hyperextension. When your neck whips back hyperextension is; hyperflexion is when it goes forwards.

What is Whiplash?

Every year, almost 2 million Americans are injured and suffer from whiplash. Plenty of those injuries do come from automobile accidents, but you will find different methods for getting whiplash. You can get whiplash from:

  • A sports injury
  • A fall
  • Being hit or shaken

Whiplash can take days, weeks, and even months to develop. You may think that you simply are all right after having fall, a car accident, or alternative first injury. Nevertheless, slowly, the typical symptoms (neck pain and stiffness, tightness in the shoulders, etc—you will find out more about the symptoms in this article) may grow.

Thus—even should you not have pain immediately following a neck injury, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Whiplash may have long term effects on your spinal health, and in the long term, it could be associated with other spinal conditions like osteoarthritis (bone and joint pain) and premature disk degeneration (faster aging of the back).

Your neck is one of your most vulnerable places, when your body is involved in trauma. Whiplash, the hard and fast forward-backward motion of the neck, can cause pain that could last well after other injuries have healed. It helps you to be aware of the anatomy included to understand your neck is so sore.

Anatomy of the Cervical Spine

As the physician attempts to figure out just which portions of the spinal column have been affected, whiplash could be a complex investigation. And there are a lot of complex parts to your own cervical back—the specialized name for the neck. The cervical spine begins in the base of the skull. It contains seven small vertebrae (bones), which doctors tag C1 to C7 (the ‘C’ means cervical). The numbers 1 to 7 suggest the amount of the vertebrae. C1 is closest to the skull, while C7 is closest to the torso.

In between each vertebra are rough fibrous shock-absorbing pads called the intervertebral discs. Each disc is composed of a tire-like a gel and outer band -like interior substance. The outer band is called the annulus fibrosus; the interior part is known as the nucleus pulposus.

In addition to bones and disks, your cervical spine additionally contains the upper region of the spinal cord, eight nerve roots, an elaborate system of veins and arteries, 32 muscles for strength, and numerous ligaments. For this kind of tiny area, there is certainly a whole lot to your own neck. Meaning that there are a lot of parts that can be injured when you have whiplash.

Strength, Flexibiity and Mobility of the Neck

Remarkably, the cervical spine supports the entire weight of your head, which will be generally about 8 pounds— yet no other area of the spinal column has such freedom of movement. The cervical spine can move 180° of side to side movement: 90° of forward motion, 90° of backward movement, your face in virtually every direction, and virtually 120° of tilt to either shoulder.

Unfortunately, this flexibility makes the neck very prone to injury and pain, including whiplash. Those 15 pounds are drastically chucked frontwards afterward back— that’s one important reason to wear seatbelts correctly and use airbags whenever feasible.

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900
By Dr. Alex Jimenez

Additional Topics: Neck Pain and Auto Injury

After being involved in an automobile accident, the sheer force of the impact can often cause whiplash, a common type of neck injury resulting from the sudden, back-and-forth motion of the head against the body due to a car wreck, or other incident. Because of this, many of the complex structures found within the neck, including the spine, ligaments and muscles, can be stretched beyond their normal range, causing injury and painful symptoms.






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The information herein on "Anatomy of Whiplash Associated Disorders" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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