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Chiropractic Research Review

Mechanisms of Whiplash Injury

Whiplash injuries have been produced in cadaver ligament tensile tests with force less than the weight of the average head, and with a speed change of only 2.5 miles per hour. Although experimental and postmortem studies have yet to prove the existence of whiplash lesions, it is hypothesized that such lesions are muscle tears, rim lesions of the discs, or occult fractures or injuries to the zygapophyseal joints.

This article comments on mechanisms of injury tissue tensile threshold and neurological considerations in whiplash-associated injuries. The author discusses such topics as:

* muscular consequences of whiplash;
* common signs and symptoms;
* whiplash-associated pain and inflammation;
* chronic neck pain from whiplash; and
* diagnostic techniques (brain imaging).

Conclusions: Defining specific thresholds of whiplash injury can be difficult, particularly because of variability in human postures, tensile strength between individuals, body positions in the vehicle, amount of muscle activation/inhibition, spinal canal size, and excitability of the nervous system. How individuals react to stimuli also varies considerably. Evaluation of the individual patient is vital to appropriate diagnosis and management of whiplash-associated disorders.

Davis CG. Injury threshold: whiplash-associated disorders. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, July/Aug. 2000:23(6), pp420-27. Reprints: Tel: (800) 325-4177 (ext. 4350); Fax: (314) 432-1380

Chiropractic Research Review

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