What causes car accident whiplash? When the head and neck are suddenly and forcefully whipped forward and back, mechanical forces place excessive stress on the cervical spine. Traumatic disc rupture and soft tissue damage can occur. Damage to the disc can put pressure on the nerves as they exit the spine. The pressure or irritation can be felt as numbness on the skin, weakness in the muscles, or pain along the path of the nerve. This is radiculopathy, also called a pinched nerve.

Soft tissue around the facet joint can be injured. Many of the pain-sensing nerves of the spine are in the facet joints. The normally smooth surfaces on which these joints glide can become rough, irritated, and inflamed. Studies show that neck pain often comes from the damaged facet joints.

Low back pain is a common feature after a whiplash injury. Studies show that there is significant electrical activity in the muscles of the lumbar spine when the neck is extended. This effect increases when there is neck pain, possibly as a way to help stabilize the spine when neck pain causes weakness.

More than anyplace else in the body, the muscles of the neck sense sudden changes in tension and respond quickly. Tiny spindles in the muscles signal the need for more muscle tension to hold against the sudden shift in position.

The result is often muscle spasm as a self-protective measure. The increased muscle tone prevents motion of the inflamed joint. You may experience neck stiffness as a result. (Source eorthopod.com).

Risk Factors

Each year, about three million people experience whiplash injuries to their neck and back. About 600,000 of those individuals may have long-term symptoms, and 150,000 will incur some degree of disability as a result of the injury. Any one or more of the following factors can affect injury severity:

  • Head turned one way or the other at the time of the impact (increases risk of nerve involvement with pain down the arm)
  • Getting hit from behind
  • Previous neck pain or headaches
  • Previous similar injury
  • Being unaware of the impending impact
  • Head, neck, or chest bent forward at the time of impact
  • Poor position of the headrest or no headrest
  • Crash speed under 10 mph
  • Being in the front seat as opposed to sitting in the back seat of the car
  • Collision with a vehicle larger than yours
  • Being of slight build
  • Wearing a seatbelt (a seat belt should always be worn, but at lower speeds, a lap and shoulder type seat belt will increase the chances of injury)

McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin provides aggressive legal representation in car accident whiplash compensation cases including medical bills, wage loss, pain, suffering and disability.