Whiplash In Santa Cruz

Whiplash is a non-medical term for a condition that occurs when the neck and head move rapidly forward and backward, or sideways, at a speed so fast that our neck muscles are NOT able to stop the movement from happening. This sudden force results in the normal range of motion being exceeded and causes injury to the soft tissues of the neck… the neck muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The term “Whiplash” was first coined in 1928 when pilots were injured by landing airplanes on air craft carriers in the ocean. Their heads were snapped forward and back as they came to a sudden stop. Before 1928, whiplash was sometimes called “railway spine” as it was used to describe injuries that occurred to people involved in train accidents.

Causes of Whiplash

The most common cause of whiplash is car accident or motor vehicle collision. Even when your car doesn’t get hit, you can also get whiplash when you’re riding in the car and the driver suddenly slams on the brake and your head gets whipped forward and back or sideways. Other causes of whiplash include injuries such as a fall on the ice or on a slippery floor and banging the head, sports injuries and “shaken baby syndrome.” You can even get whiplash at the county fair on the rides that throw your neck around.

Here’s the mechanism of injury for a rear-end car crash:

Phase 1phase 1
The neck/spine straightens: At about 75-100 msec. (that’s milliseconds!), the car is propelled forward but you – the driver remains stationary so the car seat pushes your body forward but your neck/head stay behind. This creates the classic “S-shaped curve” in your spine.

Phase 2
phase 2The neck/spine curves back: At about 150 msec., the head extends back and “hopefully” hits a properly positioned headrest or else it keeps going back injuring the spinal structures in the front of the spine. If the head extends back too far, back of the spine injuries then occur.

Phase 3
The neck/spine curves back to a maximum: At about 175 msec., thephase 3 tissues in the back of the spine compress while those in front of the spine get fully stretched and act like rubber bands getting ready to spring the head/neck forward.

Phase 4phase 4
Rebound: At about 200-300 msec., the tissues in the front of the neck propel the head/neck forward and injury can occur to the structures in the back of the spine from over stretching or, in the front of the spine from over compression.

All of the 4 phases of whiplash above occur in LESS TIME than what we can NORMALLY voluntarily contract a muscle. We cannot voluntarily stop our head from moving beyond the normal range of motion as it takes only about 500 milliseconds for whiplash to occur during a car accident… and we cannot voluntarily contract our neck muscles in less than 800-1000 msec. So even when we anticipate the impending crash and we brace ourselves, we can’t really stop our neck from going through these abnormal damaging whiplash movements.

The confusing part about whiplash is that you can get whiplash in low speed collisions such as at 5-10 mph. The reason for this has to do with the car absorbing the energy of the collision.

At lower speeds, there is less crushing of the car’s metal, which means less damage to the vehicle. Therefore, less of the energy from the collision is absorbed by the car. The energy from the impact is instead transferred to you and the contents inside the vehicle…you! This is technically called elastic deformity. When there is less damage to the car, more energy is transferred to the contents inside the car. When metal crushes, energy is absorbed and less energy affects the car’s contents. This is technically called plastic deformity. This is exemplified by race cars. When race cars crash, they are made to break apart so that the contents… the driver… is less jostled by the force of the collision. Sometimes, all that is left after the collision is the cage surrounding the driver.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Symptoms of whiplash can occur immediately or within minutes to hours after the initial injury. Also, less injured areas may be overshadowed initially by more seriously injured areas and may only “surface” after the more serious injured areas improve. The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, headaches, and limited neck movement or neck stiffness. Neck pain may radiate into the middle back area and/or down an arm. If you have arm pain, you might have a pinched nerve in your neck.

Other symptoms of whiplash include shoulder pain, shoulder stiffness, dizziness, jaw pain, arm pain, arm weakness, visual disturbances, ringing ear noises, and back pain. Also, mild brain injury can occur even when the head is not bumped or hit. These symptoms include difficulty staying on task, losing your place in the middle of thought or sentences and fatigue or feeling tired.

Whiplash symptoms often resolve within 6 weeks with a 40% chance of still hurting after 3 months, and 18% chance after 2 years. If the whiplash is not treated properly and the whiplash symptoms continue, the patient can develop depression, anger, frustration, anxiety, stress, drug dependency, post-traumatic stress syndrome, sleep disturbance, and social isolation.

There is no reliable method to predict the outcome. Studies have shown that early mobilization and getting proper treatment of whiplash results in a better outcome than waiting for weeks or months to seek proper treatment.

Treatments for Whiplash

Treatments for whiplash include rest, ice and later heat, exercise, massage, physical therapy, pain management and avoiding prolonged use of a collar.

WARNING: Long term disability and chronic neck pain can occur from prolonged use of a cervical collar since your neck structures tighten and stiffen up from being immobile – unable to move because of the collar. Unless there is some unstable condition to the neck such as a fracture, grade 3 ligament tear, progressive neurological loss, etc., studies support early mobilization of the neck joints whiplash versus wearing a cervical collar and rest.

If you have fractures or broken bones along with your other whiplash injuries, you may want to seek medical help first in case your fracture requires surgery and/or a rigid collar. Fortunately, for most whiplash patients, this is not the case.

A very important treatment for whiplash is specific gentle spinal joint mobilization of the injured joints in the neck by a trained doctor who works with whiplash patients. Studies suggest that patients who receive the proper whiplash treatment get better faster and are less likely to suffer from chronic long-term disability.Prompt treatment is important!

At our clinic, we use a special tool to gently mobilize the neck joints of whiplash patients. As shown below, this is a computer-guided treatment. Thanks to this breakthrough treatment, we get fantastic results when we treat patients with whiplash.

The whiplash treatment above blends modern computer technology with the piezoelectric technology that has been used by engineers for many years… making this treatment scientific, reliable and precise. This revolutionary treatment uses the piezoelectric sensor to find joints in your neck that are stuck or not moving properly… causing painful muscle spasms.

After the special sensor detects an injured neck joint, the treatment stylus attached to the sensor gently oscillates up to 12 impulses per second… to gently mobilize and help repair your injured neck joints and to relieve your muscle spasms. The advanced computer software guides the treatment stylus to synchronize with the piezoelectric sensor to deliver precise spinal treatments. A few gentle taps of the treatment stylus frees up your joints… relaxes your muscles… and gives you the neck flexibility that you need to once again move without pain.

Also keep in mind that with whiplash, your neck joints are not the only ones injured. Your muscles and ligaments are also injured. The technical term for ligament and muscle injuries are sprain and strain. One of the treatments we use on whiplash patients is the heated dry hydrotherapy massage.

The warm water jets in the above hydromassage pulsate from a relaxing 2 cycles per second to an invigorating 10 cycles per second. For many whiplash patients, having the relaxing warm water jets traveling up and down their back and neck relaxes their tight and stiff muscles and relieves their painful muscle spasms. Besides relaxing the injured muscles, this heated dry hydrotherapy massage also helps flush out toxins and waste products that built up in the injured muscles. Patients love that they can be fully clothed and comfortable during this treatment. The Aqua massage is so relaxing that patients refer their friends and family just to experience it.

Another thing we do for whiplash patients is to give them neck exercises to relieve their whiplash injuries. The type of neck stretching and strengthening exercises that you should do will depend on your injuries, your exam findings and how your neck was whipped during the accident.

Below are 3 sample exercises to relieve whiplash injuries. Be sure to do them under the supervision of a doctor trained in treating whiplash patients who is familiar with your specific injuries.

1. Posture Correction Exercise – arch your back, retract your shoulders and tuck in the chin. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.


2. Chin Retractions – Sit properly. Place your finger next to your chin. Retract your head and hold for 10 seconds and repeat.


3. Neck Strengthening Exercises – turn you head to the right. Apply a gentle push or resistance with your hand through your comfortable range of motion. In one direction let your head “win” (like in arm wrestling). And when moving in the opposite direction let your hand “win” but don’t let up pushing with your head. In other words, you’re ALWAYS resisting against the movement in both directions… and moving as far as you can in both directions. Repeat this moving your head forward, backward and sideways.


After 14 years in practice, we’ve treated over 2,800 patients. Many of them had whiplash injuries. If you suffer from whiplash injuries, we may be able to help you. To read reviews written by patients about our clinic, please click on the “Testimonials” tab at the top of this page.

Our clinic has treated hundreds of patients with whiplash. Our advice to you if you’re suffering from whiplash injuries from a recent car accident or from a car accident that happened a long time ago is: GET YOUR NECK CHECKED RIGHT NOW. Otherwise, your head and neck function will never be the same if your whiplash injuries continue to go untreated. And as you get older, you’ll experience more and more pain and stiffness.

Don’t lose hope. There’s a reason why you are reading this page. The beginning of relief from your suffering is just a phone call away. If you live in Santa Cruz area and you suffer from whiplash injuries, call our office today at (831) 475-8600 to get the help that you need.

Back Pain & Sciatica Clinic, 2959 Park Avenue Suite F, Soquel, CA 95073, Phone: 831-475-8600


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