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Whiplash Sprain-Strain Injuries: Understanding the Damage Caused by Car Wrecks

Whiplash sprain-strain injuries, often resulting from car wrecks, can lead to long-term pain and reduced quality of life. This article explores the types of damage that occur in whiplash injuries, based on the latest medical research.

Whiplash Sprain-Strain Injuries: What Happens?

Whiplash injuries occur when the head and neck experience a rapid back-and-forth movement, typically during a car wreck. This sudden force can cause damage to various structures in the neck, including muscles, ligaments, and joints (Holm et al., 2009).

  1. Soft Tissue Damage: Soft tissue damage affects the muscles and ligaments in the neck, resulting in pain, inflammation, and reduced range of motion. A study in the journal Spine found that muscle strains and ligament sprains are among the most common injuries sustained in whiplash, with up to 85% of patients experiencing soft tissue damage (Castro et al., 2001).
  2. Facet Joint Injuries: Facet joints, located between the vertebrae in the spine, can be damaged in whiplash injuries, leading to inflammation, pain, and reduced mobility. A study in the journal Pain found that facet joint injuries were present in up to 60% of patients with chronic whiplash symptoms (Lord et al., 1996).
  3. Intervertebral Disc Damage: Intervertebral discs, the cushion-like structures between the vertebrae, can be damaged in whiplash injuries, leading to pain and potential long-term complications. A study in the European Spine Journal found that intervertebral disc injuries were present in up to 40% of patients with chronic whiplash symptoms (Kasch et al., 2001).
  4. Nerve Damage: Whiplash injuries can also cause damage to the nerves in the neck, leading to symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness. A study in the journal Brain found that nerve root injuries were present in up to 20% of patients with chronic whiplash symptoms (Bogduk et al., 1994).
  5. Vertebral Fractures and Dislocations: In severe cases, whiplash injuries can result in fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae in the neck. These injuries can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. A study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that vertebral fractures and dislocations were present in up to 3% of patients with whiplash injuries (Grauer et al., 1997).


Whiplash sprain-strain injuries caused by car wrecks can result in a range of damage to the structures of the neck, including soft tissue damage, facet joint injuries, intervertebral disc damage, nerve damage, and vertebral fractures and dislocations. Understanding these types of damage is critical for appropriate diagnosis, treatment, and management of this debilitating condition, by a properly trained Chiropractor.

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