How Whiplash Injury Puts the Upper Neck in Jeopardy

Have you suffered from headaches, arm discomfort, or neck pain after a minor car accident? Many people report symptoms even after a small crash, especially from rear-end impacts that often lead to upper neck injuries due to the sudden whipping motion on the neck.
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The Whipping Motion of The Neck Puts Upper Neck At Risk

When a car accident takes place, the whipping motion of the neck is nearly inevitable. Whiplash puts a lot of pressure and tension on the upper neck joints. This type of injury can cause tearing of the loose ligaments and tendons of the upper neck in very complex ways. During a car accident, the body is strapped to the car, but the head is able to fly around freely creating a whipping motion at the neck.

Because the ligaments are weaker in the upper neck joints, the whiplash injury is much more likely to misalign the upper neck than the lower neck. Unless the head and neck injury is properly evaluated, it can lead to long term upper cervical instability.

When a car crash happens, our necks often get jerked around, almost like the snap of a whip. This sudden movement is called whiplash and it can be pretty tough on the top part of our neck. Why? Because the ligaments and tendons there are kind of loose and can easily get torn or stretched in messy ways.

During the crash, our bodies are held by the seatbelt, but our heads can move around a lot, leading to that whipping effect on our neck. The top part of the neck is more delicate than the bottom, so it’s more likely to get out of place from this motion. If this injury isn’t checked out and treated right, it can cause problems in our neck for a long time. Unless the upper cervical spine is properly evaluated, it can lead to long term upper cervical instability.

Most common symptoms related to whiplash injury


Neck Discomfort: Immediate or delayed pain and stiffness.

Headaches: Often originating from the base of the skull.

Muscle Pain: Extending to shoulders and upper back.

Dizziness: Possibly from sudden head and neck movement.

Fatigue: Due to the body’s trauma response.

Jaw Issues: Pain or difficulty moving the jaw.

Nerve Effects: Tingling or numbness in the arms/hands.

Visual Problems: Blurred or unfocused vision.

Sleep and Cognitive Issues: Difficulty sleeping and problems with memory or concentration.

Head and Neck Misalignment’s Impact on Health and Symptoms

Ever had a headache, felt pain in your arm or neck after a minor car crash? Many do, especially from those fender benders where your car gets hit from behind. Here’s why.

In these crashes, the seat pushes your body forward and up, but your head lags behind for a second. This makes your neck curve in a weird ‘S’ shape. Your head and the top of your neck get bent one way, while the lower part of your neck bends the other way. This puts a lot of strain on your spine, especially a part called the C4-C6. That’s why you might feel pain in your arms and shoulders.

Even if it looks like your neck moved in a normal way during the accident, the jolting motion can still hurt it. Studies have shown that even at slow speeds like 8 mph, there’s a good chance of injuring the spine.

The Necessity of Upper Cervical Spinal Evaluation

When you hurt your head or neck, it can mess with your health and how your body works, often causing headaches. After an injury, many people just focus on the damage to the soft parts around their neck. But, a lot of issues actually come from problems with our nervous system.

There’s a part of our neck called the atlas (or C-1), and if it gets out of place, it can press on our brainstem and spinal cord. This is a big deal because a bunch of important nerves and blood vessels run through the atlas. If it’s not lined up right, it can mess with the blood flow to our brain, the fluid inside our skull, and even the nerve signals that go to our brain.