term whiplash refers to a type of spine injury associated with a ballistic
trauma. It is usually associated with soft tissue injury to the muscles and
ligaments of the spine, occurring following a motor vehicle accident. Whiplash
syndrome is a mechanistic term that is characterized by a collection of
symptoms that occur following injury to the neck, usually because of rapid acceleration
and deceleration of the spine. This mechanism of injury often results in strain/sprain of supportive
elements of the neck such as muscles, ligaments and tendons. In more severe cases, this may result
in small tears involving these supportive tissues and may lead to compromise of
the underlying disc which may be vulnerable to rapid unguarded movements
secondary to degenerative changes.
common cause of whiplash is vehicular trauma (automobile accident) which causes
the head and neck to suddenly move forward and backward. If the head is turned at the time of
impact there may be injurious rotation of the neck at the time of impact.
Whiplash may involve combined neck rotation and lateral movement. Whiplash may
also be associated with direct blunt trauma, especially in incidents where
proper restraint belts were not being used.