The most frequent cause of whiplash is a car accident. The speed of the cars involved in the accident or the amount of physical damage to the car may not relate to the intensity of neck injury; speeds as low as 15 miles per hour can produce enough energy to cause whiplash in occupants, even when they wear seat belts. Following impact, the head is forced back and forth moving beyond the normal limits of movement. The tendons, ligaments and muscles are overstretched and occasionally torn. The pressure generated on the disc may cause bulging, or in extreme cases, rupture (herniation). Spinal joints are subluxated and their motion greatly restricted.
The nerve roots and possibly the spinal cord itself are stretched causing serious irritation. The instability that results from the soft tissue damage can cause headaches, dizziness, blurred or fuzzy vision, ringing in the ears, pain in the neck, arms, hands and loss of strength and limited motion.
And don’t forget the lower back. Not all whiplashes are confined to the neck. Especially in car seat belts, lower back whiplash is common. The sooner treatment is begun after an accident the better.
Other common causes of whiplash include contact sport injuries and blows to the head from a falling object.
Strains of the neck from sudden changes in direction, for example, roller coasters, minor bicycle accidents, or slips and falls can all cause whiplash.
Repetitive stress injuries or chronic strain involving the neck (such as using the neck to hold the telephone) are common, non-acute causes.