by Whitney Lowe
"Whiplash" has become one
of the most commonly used terms to describe neck pain, especially
if it is the result of a motor-vehicle accident. Yet, whiplash
is a frequently misunderstood condition. In fact, it really isn’t
one specific condition at all; it is a problem that may be caused
by damage to numerous tissues. The term whiplash was first introduced
in 1928 to describe the motion that occurs when energy is transferred
from a moving vehicle to the human body during a sudden stop or
collision. Despite the facts that it is not a clinically accurate
term and that others have been suggested, it continues to be used
as a description for a variety of acceleration/deceleration injuries
to the soft tissues of the axial skeleton. And despite the fact
that it may pertain to other regions of the axial skeleton, whiplash
is the term most often used to describe an injury to the neck.
is the result of a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the
head and neck in relation to the torso. It can happen not only
from motor-vehicle accidents, but also contact sports, blows to
the head, or violent shaking of the body. Since this condition
can affect so many tissues, there is confusion about which tissues
are actually damaged when the term whiplash is used to describe
a client’s pathology.
pain may be local in the neck, or it may radiate into the head,
shoulder or upper extremity.
of the difficulty in treating whiplash is determining which of
these tissues has been injured. Tissues that may be affected from
the trauma include interspinous ligaments, the joint capsule of
the intervertebral facet joints, nerve roots, dura mater, anterior
or posterior longitudinal ligaments, the ligamentum nuchae, or
the various muscles of the neck.