Whiplash trauma

Did you know that half of the car accidents is causing head and neck injuries? Have you heard about whiplash trauma? This syndrome doesn’t have to be connected just with car accidents. It can be result of common physical injury. You can learn more about this problem in this article.


Whiplash trauma is connected with many problems, because many complications are caused by a fast whiplash like motion. Imagine a simulation of a car wreck and the movement of the neck which is affected by an abrupt impact. The power of momentum is forcing the head to move forwards. Sudden deceleration and stopping of the car causes the head to whip forwards and consequently backwards. The impact doesn’t have to happen in a high speed, the strong momentum developed on the cervical spine is devastating already by speed 30-40 km/ph (18-24 m/ph). But these injuries do not apply just to car accidents. Same thing can happen on bicycle, falling of a horse or skiing.


Treacherousness of the whiplash trauma is that immediately after the accident, there is no evident injury. No blood, no bruises or fractures. You may think that nothing serious happened, and you don’t pay further attention to it.

We can characterize it as distortion of the spine, with a possible ligament damage in the area of the vertebrae, micro-ruptures in muscles, shifted vertebrae and discs, edema of the soft structures, reflexive changes in the back of the head, sudden gaps between the vertebrae and other structures. All that can cause disrupted balance.

Variability of manifestations is wide, because the intensity and mechanics of the impact are different by each individual. If you have gone through an accident, and you notice any of these symptoms, then you may be suffering from the whiplash syndrome:

  • Headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, weakness - especially when you turn your head
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), other hearing problems
  • Dizziness, imbalance
  • Persisting tiredness without any obvious cause
  • Sight disorders, double vision, blurred vision, limited view
  • Weakness in hands, aggravated coordination, impaired motor skills
  • Psychological problems, depression, anxiety, moodiness, frustration…

Big disadvantage of this problem is that it’s hardly diagnosable. If the injury doesn’t cause disc herniation and shifted vertebrae, CT and MRI doesn’t reveal any problem. People affected with this diagnosis go from doctor to doctor and are considered for fools. The final verdict from doctors are often psychological problems.

Further options in diagnosis are offered by a Tetrax machine. It is a diagnostic machine used for imaging the functional condition of the patient, and is focusing on catching the slightest deflections in stability. The goal is to diagnose the origin of these problems. Examination takes about 6 minutes and is painless. It is able to reveal also the functional disorder of the cervical spine caused by injury.

Additional functional examining tests are able to reveal the scale and level of damage. They can be performed by a rehabilitation doctor, orthopedics, neurologist, chiropractor and specialized physiotherapist


You can relieve the whiplash trauma by positioning the headrest in a car. The height should be on the level of your head or little bit higher. Setting the headrest should be possible to the extent when there is 5 cm gap at the most between the head and the headrest. That way you will minimise the complications of the whiplash trauma, because the movement range is minimized.

Manipulative treatment and mobilization are options helping to put the shifted vertebrae back into the place, blocked joints and strained cervical spine. Mechanical method McKenzie can put the shifted intervertebral discs back into the place, it can also affect the pain you may feel in your arms. There are various manual relaxing techniques for relieving the soft tissues and stiff structures as a result of trauma. Techniques of the soft tissues, post-isometric relaxation, massages and other the effective methods as well.

Check out the offer of physiotherapeutic methods.

It is possible to help the regeneration with kinesio taping, or lymphatic technique in order to support the metabolism and natural process of regeneration. Muscle technique can also affect the muscle tension and reach pleasing effects that way in a therapy against pain. Impaired statics of the cervical spine can be supported with taping method.

Shock wave therapy can be also beneficial, it can be successful in treating chronic and acute neck and head pains which may be resulting from the whiplash trauma.

Training balance and stability can be done in the form of sensory motor stimulation on unstable surfaces and affecting the position of the head, neck and the vestibulocochlear nerve.


In order to decrease the severity of the whiplash syndrome after a car accident, you should correctly set up the head restraint in your car. Its upper edge should be on the level of the top of your head, or even slightly higher. Adjusting the head restraint should be possible so that there would be ca. 5 cm gap between your head and the restraint. The phenomenon „whiplash” is minimized that way, because of the lower range of backward motion.

Author: FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: http://whiplash.cz/cs/tetrax/

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