Whiplash: More Than Just A Pain In The Neck

One small, quick, back-and-forth movement of your neck when you are rear-ended by another vehicle may seem insignificant, but the results can be huge. Canadians make over 2 million whiplash claims annually. The costs reach over C$600 million for medical care, disability, sick leave, litigation, and missing work productivity.

When you are struck from behind, the transfer of energy from that vehicle to your neck is, unfortunately, unequal – up to two and a half times greater. Your 10 pound head suddenly moves with a force as great as 7 Gs in a quarter of a second, even if the vehicle was traveling only 8 mph. Tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft tissue are bruised and torn, causing pain. If you have been involved in a car crash, here's what you need to know about whiplash injury, and how you can feel better sooner.


After an accident involving whiplash, you may feel pain immediately or even days later. You cannot move your head and neck very far. Some people feel dizzy, have a headache or numb arms.  Others experience severe damage such as nerve and disc damage or a broken neck.  Most whiplash pain goes away gradually, but you may find yourself a victim of pain for weeks or months, depending on how severe you were injured.

Are You At Risk?

If you have a long, slender neck, you are at greater risk for whiplash. Also, young women with flexible necks and who are not very muscular, as well as the frail and elderly, are prone as well. Thinner people are more at risk than the heavy.

Take a look at the seats in the car you drive. Bench seats often produce whiplash more than bucket seats. Finally, how far away is your head from the headrest in your seat? If you like to lean forward a bit when you drive, you will probably suffer whiplash.

Decreasing Your Risk

If you cannot change your body type to lessen your risk of whiplash, there are other factors that you can control. Make sure the car you drive has a headrest that is well-designed and positioned properly. Vehicle headrests are more than just a comfort feature; they are supposed to move your head forward with your body in a rear-end car crash, helping you resist whiplash. If the headrest is too low, too high, or too far away from your head, your head and neck are not protected during a crash. Here's how to position it:

  • The top of the headrest needs to be even with the top of your head. If not, then at least even with the top of your ears.
  • Position the headrest around 2 inches from the back of your skull. Closer headrests are safer than farther headrests.

Feeling Better Faster

Whiplash pain is annoying at the least, and frustrating and debilitating at its worst. Besides simply going home with a prescription for some high-potency painkillers, here are some other ways you can help lessen the pain of whiplash after a car crash.

  1. Pay attention to your body mechanics. Lift heavy items like babies and groceries by bending at the knees. This reduces stress on soft tissues and promotes healing in your neck.
  2. Start some exercises for range of motion and strength training to help your muscles recover their capacity to support the neck and head.
  3. Plain old rest allows your muscles to relax. Lie down and place a little pillow under your knees and think positive thoughts. Roll up a bath towel and place it around your neck like a scarf to support the weight of your head, relieving pain in your neck.
  4. Put a warm damp washcloth on your skin, and position a bag of crushed ice on it. Let it sit on your skin for 15 minutes to help numb muscle pain.

If you receive whiplash as a result of a rear-end car crash, it can end up costing you more than just pain and loss of income. Talk to an injury lawyer, like one at Pressé Mason Barristers and Solicitors, about ways you can get all the support you need.