Whiplash is an injury to your neck that can occur when you're in a motor vehicle accident, usually when another vehicle hits you from behind. Injuries can range from mild to severe.
Although whiplash injuries aren't usually life threatening, the annual cost of this type of injury averages about $30 billion a year in the U.S. While whiplash is a common injury, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of whiplash if you're in an accident.
Use your seat belt. Buckling up helps keep you in position so that you aren't thrown forward in an accident. When the force of a collision thrusts your head forward and then snaps it back again, you can injure the bones, muscles, disks, ligaments, or nerves in your neck.
You don't have to be traveling at a high speed either. Whiplash can occur at crash speeds as low as 5 or 10 mph.
Adjust the headrest on your seat. Position the headrest so that it's directly behind your head. Before taking any passengers in your vehicle, adjust their headrests too.
The middle of the headrest should be at the center of the back of your head. The top should reach as high as the top of your head. If it won't adjust that far, it should reach at least as high as the top of your ears. This will help prevent your head from being jarred or jerked when your vehicle suddenly stops.
If you position the headrest too high and your head flies backward on impact, it could hit the metal bars. Adjusting the headrest too low can be just as dangerous. You could suffer a serious neck injury if the force of a collision whips your head backward and over the top of the headrest.
Check out crash-test ratings. The next time you go shopping for a vehicle, find out which models have higher crash-test ratings. Generally, these do a better job of preventing whiplash if you are hit from behind.
You can get rear-crash ratings for front-seat headrests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Consumer Reports magazine issues road test reports for rear-seat head restraints.
Prepare your body for the collision. Although drivers don't always see a collision coming, if you do and have time to prepare, you may be able to reduce your chances of whiplash injury.
Put your head and neck all the way back against the seat and headrest. Grip the steering wheel, holding your arms straight.
If you're at a stop sign or traffic signal and have time to brace yourself for the collision, put your foot down hard on the brake. Keep your eyes focused straight ahead, looking up at the top of the windshield. Avoid looking in the rear view mirror so your head isn't turned. If you do find yourself with a whiplash injury, talk to a place like Rosser Chiropractic Center.