Nearly 1/3 of all car crashes are rear-end collisions. When a car is hit from behind, even in a “minor impact” collision, the forces involved are significant. The occupants of the car that is hit are immediately subjected to tremendous forces. The front vehicle is jolted forward as are the people in that car. The bodies of occupants of the front car are usually resting against the seat. The heads of the the occupants are generally not resting on any part of the interior of the car and they are momentarily ‘suspended’ while the body of the passenger moves ahead with the seat which it is in contact with. The body jerks forward but the head lags behind until it strikes the headrest in most situations. The distance between the head and the headrest varies depending on seat design, head rest adjustment and the passenger’s posture in the seat and other factors.The result is the head ‘snaps’ back then rebounds off the headrest and ‘whips’ forward, often until the chin hits the chest. This process can happen again, in reverse, if there is a second impact with a car ahead. This back and forth movement of the head sends shock waves down the entire spine and is often called a “whiplash”.
Whiplash results in muscle and tendon tearing. Much like a sprained ankle the muscles need time to heal but the muscles also need help in healing. Prompt and ongoing medical attention can reduce the permanent effects of this type of injury. At the very first sign of neck or back pain a doctor should be consulted. Medical doctors will often refer a whiplash victim to physical therapy. A chiropractor is a doctor who specializes in neck and back treatment and will provide specialized treatment to minimize the trauma, speed healing and prevent ongoing and chronic pain and problems. Whichever doctor you see, be sure to get treatment started soon after the collision and be sure to be consistent with follow-up. Your recovery will be shorter and the results better overall.