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Slow-Speed Whiplash Happens

We tend to associate whiplash injuries with high speed car collisions but whiplash can also occur at much lower speeds. Some research has shown that whiplash injuries can occur with speed changes (velocity change) as low as 10-15km/h1. 15km/h is often the speed limit for parking lots! So if someone has “bumped” into you recently and if you experiencing one of these symptoms, you might has some whiplash injury – neck pain and stiffness, headache, shoulder pain and stiffness, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain (temporomandibular joint symptoms), arm pain, arm weakness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and back pain.

Abnormal Neck Spinal Movement

All the about symptoms seem so varied to be related to a whiplash incident. But they all have a common link. This video (/whiplash-part-i/) shows you the mechanism of the whiplash as it occurs. More recent studies investigating high-speed cameras and sophisticated crash dummies have determined that after the rear impact the lower cervical vertebrae (lower bones in the neck) are forced into a position of hyperextension (excessive bending forwards position) while the upper cervical vertebrae (upper bones in the neck) are in a hyperflexed position (excessive bending backwards position) . This leads to an abnormal S-shape in the cervical spine after the rear impact that is different from the normal motion. It is thought that this abnormal motion causes damage to the soft tissues that hold the cervical vertebrae together (ligaments, facet capsules, muscles).

Soft-Tissue Damage

It is damage to the soft tissues (ligaments, facet capsules, muscles) that causes the pain directly or indirectly by affecting the nearby nerves. Symptoms such as arm weakness and ringing in the ears are nerve related.

Get Treated Early

We strongly recommend early treatment of the whiplash injuries. Soft tissues tend to scar as they heal, which in turn causes other subsequent problems down the road like stiffness, lack of range of movement. Aside from physiotherapy treatments like mobilisation and manipulation, one of the best approaches for whiplash treatment is to behave normally3. That is do not walk around try to keep your neck still to avoid straining it further.


  1. Castro WH, Schilgen M, Meyer S, Weber M, Peuker C, Wörtler K. Do “whiplash injuries” occur in low-speed rear impacts? Eur Spine J. 1997;6(6):366-75. PubMed PMID: 9455663; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3467723.
  2. Whiplash During Low Speed Impact: Fact Or Fraud? http://technology-assoc.com/articles/whiplash-during-low-speed-impact-fact-or-fraud.html
  3. Whiplash – Treatment Comparisons http://www.som.uq.edu.au/whiplash/whiplash-treatments/treatment-comparisons.aspx

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