Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ


This might be kind of a weird question but I think about it a lot. Are neck injuries from whiplash something the developed after cars were invented? Or is this something that people have always experienced?


That is actually a very good question and one that other people have given some thought. The actual word whiplash first appears in written form back in 1928. An orthopedic surgeon by the name of Crowe was the first to report on eight patients who suffered neck injuries from traffic collisions. It's very likely that before the modern invention of the automobile there were falls from horses and other injuries that led to neck pain and problems similar to what we refer to today as "whiplash." Bicycles came on the scene in the late 1800s. And if you remember, the early bikes were high off the ground. Injuries from falls and collisions were likely even back then. The focus on injuries and treatment today may be very different than it was back then. Without health insurance and medical care so readily available, it seems people got better faster. In fact, there's some modern evidence that the availability and approach of health care professionals to this problem may actually make matters worse, not better. Studies consistently show that too much treatment too soon after neck injuries actually increases the risk of chronic pain and disability. The reason? Possibly too much attention creates illness behaviors. Calling the problem a "whiplash" injury instead of a "neck strain" may be a way health care providers cause or extend the sick-role. Not enough focus on self-care may encourage passive coping behaviors. There is plenty of evidence that education, home exercise, and returning to normal activities as soon as possible is the most successful approach to this problem. Reducing patients' fear and anxiety about their condition seems to be a big help (and more successful than other hands-on treatments). And that is probably how things were handled back in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. Pierre Côté, DC, PhD, and Sophie Soklaridis, PhD. Does Early Management of Whiplash-Associated Disorders Assist or Impede Recovery? In Spine. December 1, 2011. Vol. 36. No. 25S. Pp. S275-279.

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