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Facts About Whiplash, Soft Tissue Injuries of the Cervical Spine: 15 Year Follow-up

Key Facts Regarding Car Accidents, as referenced in Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, November 1996, Vol. 78-B, pp.955-7, B. Squires, M.F. Bannister: From the University of Bristol, England

Man with whiplash injury from auto accident

  • At a mean of 15.5 years post whiplash trauma, 70% of whiplash injured patients continued to complain of symptoms referable to the original accident.
  • Long-term symptoms from whiplash injury include neck pain, arm paraesthesia, back pain, headache, dizziness, and tinnitus.
  • Women and older patients have a worse outcome from whiplash injuries.
  • Radiating arm pain is more common in those with severe symptoms.
  • Between 10 and 15 years after the accident, 18% of patients had improved, whereas 28% had deteriorated.
  • Soft-tissue related injuries to the cervical spine may give persisting symptoms.
  • Most whiplash-injure patients reach their final sate by two years after being injured, but studies show ongoing symptom fluctuation between 10 to 15 years.
  • At the 15-year follow up, neck pain was present in 65% and low back pain was present in 48%.
  • 80% of women and 50% of men continued to have symptoms at 15 years.
  • Back pain and tinnitus increased between 10 and 15.
  • Symptoms remained static in 54%%, improved in 18% and worsened in 28%.
  • Degenerative changes are associated with a worse prognosis for recovery.
  • 60% of symptomatic patients had not seen a doctor in the previous five years because the doctors are unable to help them.
  • 18% had taken early retirement due to health problems, which they related to the whiplash injury.
  • Whiplash symptoms do not improve after settlement of litigation.
  • Most radiating pain is deferral from the facets, not radicular.
  • Chronic whiplash symptoms will cause an abnormal psychological assessment after 3 months.
  • In this study, 100% of patients with severe ongoing problems had cervical spinal degeneration.

Whiplash is the common term that most people use when discussing an automobile accident. The term is very applicable, since the head is literally whipped during this type of trauma. But the proper term is a “hyperextension/hyperflexion injury.”

The trauma from whiplash is dependent on a number of factors:

  • Head position
  • Type of seat-back in the car (hard vs. soft)
  • Position of the headrest and its approximation to the head
  • Did your any of your body parts struck anything in the car during the accident?
  • Was your head turned at the time of impact?
  • Where you caught unaware, or did you brace for impact?
  • Pre-existing degenerative changes of the spine, even if asymptomatic at impact
  • Direction of force
  • Mass of the vehicle that you are in
  • Mass of the vehicle that struck you
  • Momentum of the vehicle that struck you
  • Velocity difference at impact
  • Road conditions (ice, wet, dry)
  • Were your brakes on or off at the time of impact?

In a study of 11,450 motor vehicle injuries, the following results were observed regarding the cervical spine:

Soft tissue damage: 87%
Cervical fractures with no cord damage: 8.4%
Fracture with cord damage: 2.4 %
Other (including death): 2.1%

Symptoms, In Order of Prevalence:

  • Neck Pain: 90%
  • Shoulder Pain: 80%
  • Vertigo: 62%
  • Paresthesia: 50%
  • Lumbar Pain: 45%
  • Muscle Weakness: 35%
  • Tinnitus: 33%
  • Headaches: 30%

The treatment of whiplash injuries requires specialized testing and procedures. Patients in the Des Moines Area that are looking for a chiropractor that treats whiplash can rely on over three decades of experience working with these acute, chronic and/or severe cases. That experience for the treatment of whiplash injuries in the Des Moines area is at Johnston Town Center Chiropractic, with Dr. Alan J. Schultz.

Please contact us to request an appointment or give us a call. Remember to tell us you have been in a car accident, since these cases do require a bit more time for both history and examination.


Whiplash Injuries Johnston | (515) 270-2924