Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ


Whiplash seems like such a common injury. How come we can't prevent it?


Whiplash, an injury to the neck caused by the sudden pitching forward of the skull and then snapping back, can be a very painful injury and can result in chronic pain and disability. The most common cause of whiplash is a motor vehicle accident, but it can also be caused by falls and other types of injuries. People have even gotten whiplash while riding on carnival rides.

The best way to prevent whiplash is by using the proper precautions like the head rests in cars. Many people don't adjust the head rest properly, making it so it doesn't protect them in case of an accident.

When getting into the car, be sure that the head rest is 2 inches or less from the rear of your head. If there are more than 4 inches, there is too much room for your head to snap back.

Adjust the height of the head rest so it is directly behind the head, not at the neck level. The head rest should be at the same level as the ears. Since everyone is different in size, don't assume that the head rest is in the right position for you. Michele Sterling, PhD, et al. Psychological Factors Are Related to Some Sensory Pain Threshold but Not Nociceptive Flexion Reflex Threshold in Chronic Whiplash. In The Clinical Journal of Pain. February 2008. Vol. 24. No. 2. Pp. 124-129.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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