Whiplash: Not just a pain in the neck

Jan 02, 2023
Coup-Contrecoup Injury
Many things happen during the milliseconds of a whiplash injury, let's slow things down and take a look step-by-step.

Another name for whiplash is cervical acceleration-deceleration injury. In this instance, there is a rear impact and the occupant’s first motion is up. This is called the ramping effect and is due to the spine pushing against the seat, flattening the spinal curve. This upward motion, in many cases, causes the head to rise above safe levels of the headrest. The neck-head fully extends past its normal limits, tearing ligaments and discs (herniations).  The head then “whips” forward while the brain is still going backward, due to the fluid area in the back of the brain, and the brain hits the back of the skull. This can cause bleeding in the brain or hematoma. The neck-head then goes past its normal forward limits, tears ligaments, and discs (herniations), then “whips” back once more, with the brain hitting the front of the skull. The damage to the brain is called a “Coup-Contrecoup Injury,” and can cause bleeding in the brain. The whiplash mechanism, which is often taken lightly, usually causes serious pathology, such as herniations, bleeding and tearing of tissue, that are permanent conditions. In many cases, whiplash can be caused from a single vehicle, no damage, accident.

At Pittsburgh Spine and Injury Center our doctor has over a decade of experience diagnosing, triaging, and treating these types of injuries.  As well as specific qualifications through chiropractic and medical academia.  These types of mechanical spine injuries are not fixed with pain medications and/or muscle relaxers. 




Na, M., Beavers, T. J., Chandra, A., and Bentil, S. A. (January 20, 2020). "Simulation of Brain Response to Noncontact Impacts Using Coupled Eulerian–Lagrangian Method." ASME. J Biomech Eng. May 2020; 142(5): 051011. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4045047