What is Whiplash?

A sharp, sudden pain shoots through your neck as your head slams against the headrest. Dazed, you look in the rear view mirror, only to see another dazed driver looking back at you.

Rear-end collisions are one of the leading causes of whiplash. This is due to how whiplash occurs. Your body can handle many strains and impacts efficiently. Whiplash, however, is the exception.

Whiplash jerks the body in a way that it is unable to handle. This causes immediate damage to the affected area (usually the neck or spine area), which could have long-term complications.

Your neck and spine work in harmony to allow you to explore the world in a convenient and efficient fashion. Normal day-to-day activities have little (if any) chance of disrupting your body’s natural movements.

However, in the 21st century, there are many activities that have a high chance of moving the body in ways it was never meant to move.

Car Accidents

Car accidents are—hands down—one of the leading causes of whiplash. Because cars are literally vehicles of physics. They propel themselves forward and, if they hit another object, will react instantly.

When a rear-end collision happens, the car causing the accident transfers its motion on to the car being hit. Since the car being hit is at a standstill or moving slower than the car causing the accident, a certain amount of energy is transferred between vehicles.

This causes a sudden lurch. The reason why rear-end collisions most often cause whiplash has to do with what whiplash is. Whiplash is an overextension of your spine, neck, or other areas of your body.

So when the car gets hit from behind, your spine and neck move backwards. Problem is, they don’t stop moving until they hit the headrest. At this point, your neck has likely moved further than it was ever intended to. This is what causes whiplash.

If you were in the car doing the rear-ending, though, such an injury is not as likely to happen. Why? Because of your chin. When you move forward, your head will eventually stop when your chin hits the chest. So there is a guaranteed stopping point.

Moving backwards, the neck and spine move through thin air, with no resistance until a headrest is met.

Amusement Park Rides

Ahh, the thrill of a roller coaster. There’s something about controlled life-or-death situations, where even the slightest error could result in catastrophe.

We can’t get enough of it!

Problem is, sometimes our bodies can’t handle the jerking and jarring a roller coaster inflicts on it.

Although roller coasters are designed to prevent whiplash, it can still occur. However, unlike a rear-end collision, it can be even less obvious that whiplash has occurred due to the ride itself.

Because people expect to be a bit sore after pushing their bodies to the absolute limit. So you might get off a roller coaster and think “my neck’s a little sore, but that was a blast!”

If we haven’t made it clear by now, this is why whiplash can be so dangerous. Because it sneaks up on you. Because it’s a “common” injury that “heals itself.”

Although this article covered only two possible ways you can get whiplash, realize there are many, many others. But we’ve tried to illustrate the process the body goes through when whiplash occurs.

So if you experience trauma similar to what you’d get in a rear-end collision or a roller coaster, then experience neck or spine soreness or stiffness, realize you likely have whiplash.

But how can you make sure?

Read the next article, whiplash symptoms, to find out!