Preventing Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash Injury Guide

Preventing Whiplash Injuries

Man in car accident with whiplash

Preventing whiplash injuries is even more important than proper treatment. You can learn how to help prevent whiplash injuries.

Seat Belts and Airbags: Seatbelts and airbags are now mandatory in all new vhiles. While seat belts and airbags do contribute to injuries suffered during an auto accident, they’ve saved millions of lives around the world. Front and side airbags alone save thousands of lives every year. If your vehicle has airbags, be sure to comply with any safety recalls for your specific make and model vehicle. Of coure, you should also always wear your seat belt, avoid using your phone while driving (that includes “hands free” mode, and don’t of course, don’t drive if your senses are impaired. Follow those rules as well as the ones below and you can help prevent whiplash injury from a motor vehicle collision.

Headrest Height: Positioning your headrest properly is crucial. The ideal headrest heighth is elevated enough to prevent the head and neck from sliding up and over the top of the headrest during an auto accident. Headrests positioned too low increases your risk of injury. The muscles, ligaments, tendons, and discs in the neck are very susceptible to injury during an accident. Correct headrest positioning is within 3 to 4 inches of the back of your head. Reducing the distance between your head and the headrest limits the risk of traumatic brain injury during a rear-end collision.

“Research shows that most whiplash injuries are the result of rear-end collisions”

Seat Back Positions: Safety studies show a higher risk of injury if a seat back is fully upright during a car accident. However, reclining your seat too far back can act as a “ramp”, causing the torso to slide up the seat, allowing the head to slide up and over the headrest. This “ramp effect” increases your risk of serious neck injury. Conversely, a seat back angled too far forward also increases the risk of injury during a car accident.

Size of Passengers: The severity of injuries resulting from car accidents comes down to physics. Research has repeatedly shown the potential for harm in motor vehicle collisions is related to the size of the passenger. Passenger size will also affect head and neck position during an accident. Muscle strength of the neck and upper back play crucuial roles in preventing injury as well. Head position during an auto accident (e.g., looking to one side or the other vs. looking straight ahead) significantly affects the seriousness of your injuries. Body weight and frame size also play a role in the seriousness of injury. Smaller people are more susceptible to injury during a rear-end collision. This is evident in the comparative injury statistics between men and women.

What About Driving and Texting?

Six thousand drivers surveyed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed 20% of 18 to 20-year-olds, and 30% of 21-34-year-olds claimed texting doesn’t affect their driving.

Of those surveyed, 1 in 10 had been in a crash or “near-crash” in the last year. Men were at a slightly higher risk of being involved in an accident than women. Younger drivers between 18-20 years old had the highest frequency of car accidents or near-crashes (23%) compared to other age groups. Interestingly, drivers 65 years and older had the lowest risk of accidents (8%). Younger drivers reported close to twice as many accidents (17%) as drivers in their early 20s (9%) and almost four times as many as other age groups (4-6%).

Research Proves the Dangers of Driving and Texting

Of the 700-plus drivers involved in crashes or near-crashes in the previous year, 6% reported using their phones. The younger drivers (18-20 year-olds) reported the highest cell phone use (13%) during their crash or near-crash. The highest incidence of talking on the phone at the time of crash/near-crash was in the 25-34-year-old group (10%).

Research performed by Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia found that texting dramatically impaired driving skills. Participants texting and driving spent four times as much time with their eyes off the road.

Research also shows that “hands-free” devices can also carry serious risks. Whether talking on the phone or to the person sitting next to you, it is a distraction from driving. Research conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that “voice-to-text” options aren’t any safer than texting. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found voice-activated, “in-car” technology can dangerously “undermine driver attention.”

Treatment of Whiplash Injuries

On your first visit, your whiplash doctor will document all the specific details of your accident, including speed you were travelling, what you struck, and if any part of your body struck anything inside the vehicle. Your doctor will also want to know the specifics of your injuries such as what makes your pain better or worse, any treatment you’ve received, and may ask questions about how your injuries are affecting your work and social life.

Physical Examination

During the physical exam, the doctor will touch and move your head, neck, and back. Your doctor may also:

  • Measure the range of motion (ROM) in your neck, back, shoulders, wrists, etc.
  • Determine what motions or activities causes pain or increase your pain
  • Look for tenderness in the neck, shoulders, back, and extremities
  • Check reflexes, measure muscle strength, and the look fora loss of feeling in the arms and legs

Imaging Tests

Whiplash injuries may not be apparent on imaging tests, but the doctor may order some to rule out other conditions or injuries. The tests requested can include:

X-rays – X-rays are excellent at finding fractures, dislocations, and arthritis.

Computerized tomography (CT) – This is a type of X-ray that takes a “cross-sectional” image of bone, showing fractures or other anomalies that may be missed on an x-ray.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRIs produce detailed “3D images” using radio waves and magnetic fields. to of human tissue. MRIs can detect injuries to the spinal cord, vertebral discs, and ligaments.

Whiplash Injury Treatment

The primary goal of whiplash treatment is to:

  • Reduce and control pain levels
  • Return full range of motion to the injured areas of the neck and back
  • Help the patient return to their normal Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Effective whiplash treatment takes in to account factors like, the severity of your whiplash injury, previous injuries you’ve suffered, and many other facts. While Chiropractic care is the preferred method of treatment for whiplash injuries, severe cases may also require prescription medicications, injections, or additional types of treatment. Schedule an appointment with a Denver whiplash specialist.

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