Whiplash mechanism of injury in car accidents occurs 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.  The cartilage between the disc and the vertebral bone is often cracked.

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. Most people think of these symptoms as indications of a pinched nerve. Health care providers call this condition cervical radiculopathy.

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. One may experience neck stiffness as a result.

Any of the following factors can aggravate a MVA whiplash injury:

• 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 (rear-impact collision)

• Prior neck pain or headaches

• Being unaware of the impending impact

• Posture at the time of impact (head, neck, or chest bent forward)

• 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

• A seat belt should always be worn, but at lower speeds, it may increase chances of neck injury

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office attorneys get the best results in MVA cases with whiplash when the mechanism of injury is consistent in the medical records and mva report.  Next we’ll discuss whiplash symptoms from automobile collisions.