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Moving Toward Better Health

The official blog of Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic


Avoid Whiplash In A Crash

Posted by Dr. Tom Konicki
Dr. Tom Konicki
Dr. Thomas Konicki earned his B.S. in Biology at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to the Los Ange...
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in Self-Care/Prevention

Question: Last winter, my car was hit from behind and I was diagnosed with whiplash to my neck. Is there anything I can do to avoid this again?

Answer: Now that winter has arrived, we can expect more motor vehicle accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce about 70% of automobile accidents resulting in death are ice-or-snow related.

You have no control over vehicles behind your car. They can travel too closely and be unable to stop when need be. Let them pass if possible. If not, slow your own vehicle down to as safe a speed as possible, which then at least puts the tailgating driver also at a safer speed.

You are especially vulnerable in traffic jams on the highway. If you see that the traffic has slowed or stopped, put your flashers on 1 or 2 miles ahead of time. Start to slow your vehicle so that you gradually cause several cars behind you to slow down. At least, these drivers will be aware and not strike you from behind.

Leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. If your vehicle is struck, you won't strike the vehicle in front of you and cause a second impact. You don't want to be sandwiched between two vehicles, which increases your risk of injury.
It's a wife's tale that you should be loose and relaxed if you are in an accident. This is absolutely not true! You want to be prepared for an impact and brace yourself. You would much rather have your muscles protect your spine, which is much more delicate. Research has shown that injuries are typically worse when the victim is unaware of the impending impact.

If you are the driver, always keep an eye on the driver behind you. If you are stopped and think you are going to get hit, brace yourself with both hands on the steering wheel and push hard on the brake peddle. Lock your head and neck up against your headrest so that you don't whip upon impact. The less your car lurches forward, the less whipping to neck and back.

If you are the passenger, again get your head and neck up against your headrest. Keep your feet on the floor so that you are not in the way of the deployed airbag.

Adjust your headrest so that it strikes the middle of your head. Most of us have our headrest adjusted too low. If your head is whipped backwards, the headrest then acts as a fulcrum and can actually increase your whiplash!

So what is whiplash? Technically, it is a sprain/strain injury to your neck muscles and ligaments. This involves micro-tears of these tissues, much like spraining your ankle. Your head weighs about 8-12 lbs and is balanced on a slender spine that is only 2 inches in diameter. It is much like having a bowling ball rest on a broomstick.

If you are struck from behind, your head will whip backward and forward violently. This happens in less then 1 second and you are unable to tense your muscles quickly enough. That is why it is better to know you are going to be hit rather than be completely unaware.

Even low-speed accidents under 15 mph can cause serious injury to your neck. One of my patients fractured part of her lower neck after being hit from behind only at 7 mph!

If you think you are hurt, go to the emergency room where you can be examined and x-rayed. If you have no fractures, then see your chiropractor. Chiropractic care is extremely effective in treating whiplash. After such trauma, your neck is typically out of alignment, which must be corrected for proper healing. Injured muscles and ligaments are treated with ice, heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and exercise.

Typical symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, headaches, blurry vision, ringing in the ears, dizziness and tingling and numbness into the arms/hands. If you have any of these symptoms, get treatment now and avoid ongoing problems later.

Copyright © 2008 - Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic. All rights reserved.

Dr. Tom Konicki is a board certified chiropractic orthopedist and has practiced for many years in South Dayton. You can reach him at www.kschiro.com or mail your questions to Ask the Chiropractor, 2165 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Dayton, Ohio 45459.

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