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Whiplash after a minor fender bender

Posted on May 5th, 2017 by Dr. Gloria Adkins

Whiplash after a minor fender bender

       Patients in my West Seattle Chiropractic Clinic are often surprised by how much they hurt after being in a low impact car accident.  Auto insurance companies try to downplay the extent of the injury when there is only minor damage to the car.

     When a 3500 lb. car traveling at 10 mph strikes the rear of another car it may transmit to this car a force of 25 tons.  In a typical whiplash mechanism at 10 mph, the head snaps back with the equivalent of several tons of force.  90% of all road-traffic collisions occur at speeds less than 14 mph and it is in these that whiplash occurs. s Since the mid 1950s it has been recognized that the disability from whiplash is associated less with tire skid marks or the degree of vehicle damage than the effect of differential velocity on the head and upper torso. 

     Rear end collisions are associated with more severe symptoms than collisions from any other direction.  Also being rear ended by a larger, heavier vehicle increases inertial injuries.

     The actual impact and instantaneous head motion is so fast that the muscles and ligaments are caught off guard, which is why there is more structural damage than in other types of injuries. Because women have a thinner less rigid neck, they have twice the whiplash injury rate as men. Patients who sustain low velocity whiplash injuries will often have more pain and often more psychological distress than those who sustain a fracture.  Also, the greater the pain is the worse the psychological response.  In whiplash injured patients, mood disorders after one year is twice that in the in the general population.

     Statistics of people who go to an Emergency Department following an auto accident show that 37% experience immediate pain, 62% experienced pain within 12 hours, 90% experienced pain within 24 hours and 10% experienced pain after 24 hours.  50% of all cases of arm pain and weakness occur more than a week after the injury.

     The term whiplash came about in 1928 from studies done by the Western Orthopedic Association.  The injury was recognized at least as early as 1882 when it was referred to as “spinal concussion” or railway spine”.

     This information was summarized from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, July 2009.

     If you’ve been in even a minor auto accident why wait to have a check-up?  The earlier you receive treatment the better your prognosis.

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