Whiplash involves a flexion-extension type injury as the head is propelled forwards to backwards or backwards to forwards rapidly. It has been shown that a whiplash injury may result from an accident of as little as 8 km/h!1

Whiplash caused by car accident
A typical rear-end collision that ends with some whiplash for the driver and passengers.

Eighty-four percent of all neck injuries are classified as low severity soft tissue injuries and result mainly from low velocity impact collisions. The majority of soft tissue injuries remain undetected. These injuries are known as subfailure injuries.2 Subfailure injuries are known to significantly alter the tissues mechanical properties3 and these alterations are not seen on routine X-rays or CT scan.4 Significant loss of movement in all directions has been found in patients with persistent whiplash-associated disorder.5

It is important not to disregard the problems experienced by people after whiplash, because nothing can be seen on X-ray. We understand the mechanism of the injury and the underlying damage to proprioception that occurs. This damage will often lead to further problems if not corrected as soon as possible after the injury. Read the next section about proprioception to learn more about why damage occurs following whiplash injury.

Degenerative change in the cervical spine
The Cervical spine loses its natural C-shape curve, which now is a reverse C-shape. This leads to abnormal function of the neck post injury and may accelerate degenerative change in the cervical spine.



  1. Bogduk, N. (1999) Spine 24: 770
  2. Panjabi (1998) Spine 23: 17-24.
  3. Davis, C. (2001) JMPT 24: 44-51
  4. Yoganandan et al. (2001) Whiplash injury determination with conventional spine imaging and cryomicrotomy. Spine 26: 2443-2448.
  5. Dall’Alba et al. (2001) Cervical range of motion discriminates between asymptomatic persons and those with whiplash. Spine 26: 2090-2094A.