How Do You Avoid Whiplash Injury?!

Did you know, 33% of people who get rear-ended suffer from whiplash injuries. Of those injured, only 50% fully recover! The other half must deal with the nasty aftermath of chronic pain and disability. Thanks to the latest whiplash related studies, we know the main reasons why whiplash injuries occur!

There are 2 types of risk factors involved in accidents that lead to whiplash. Extrinsic and intrinsic:

Intrinsic factors are specific to the individual involved such as their age, height, pre-existing condition, etc.

Extrinsic factors you have more control over. These are the things that you can do to prepare yourself for the possibility of a car accident.

3 Extrinsic factors to limit your chances of whiplash

1. Position of Your Headrest

It only takes 6.5-8 g-forces to cause joint, ligament, and disc injuries. Not a lot huh? That's why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began testing head restraints. They found that most head restraints failed. The design and position of your head is very important. The height of the head restraint matters a lot, because as you get rear-ended the mid back straightens and lifts your head. At the same time the force of the impact lifts you upward and off your seat.

This is why the recommended height for a headrest is for the crown (the forward curve of the head restraint) to sit a few inches higher than the back of your head when sitting normally.

The back-set (the distance from head to head restraint) is also a big deal. If too far away, a reverse “S” shaped curve happens very quickly during a whiplash injury, tearing ligaments, injuring joints, and cervical discs even before your head hits the restraint.

TIP: To make sure the distance is right, make a flattened fist and put it behind your head. If your fist just fits in between your head and the headrest, you’re good!

2. Bracing For Impact!

Brace yourself! Now, how do we do that properly? For starters, the best position brace yourself is leaning your body and head against the seat and headrest with your arms crossed. This is not only very helpful in reducing injuries to the cervical spine, but reduces the likelihood of injuries to the hands and wrists if your car ends up colliding with another car or object after being rear ended. You can’t prevent everything, but doing the best you can will help your chances of a less serious injury.

3. Staying in Proper Position

When in a vehicle, it is important to use good posture. If you’re rear-ended while twisting your back and dancing to the latest song, you drastically increase your chance of pinching, tearing, and dislocating any part of your body; though particularly the spine.

Here is a quote from someone who deals with the damage caused by wrecks: 🧐

“I once had a patient who was leaning to the right over his console while he was driving. He then got rear-ended and suffered significant joint and ligament injuries to his neck. This took place because the patient took the head restraint completely out of play. Had the patient stayed upright and properly, his injury severity could’ve been significantly reduced.”

-Dr. Barry Matthisen D.C.


1. Position your headrest

The suggested height for your headset is to have the crown (the forward curve of the head restraint) a few inches higher than the back of your head.

2. Brace for impact

You can do this by:

Pressing your head back against the head restraint with arms crossed

3. Stay in the proper position

Keep your back, shoulders, head and hips straight.

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