Whiplash is the injury to the vertebral column from sudden hyperextension or hyperflexion forces.

Causes of whiplash include:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Falls
  • Occupational accidents
  • Fights
  • Diving accidents
  • "Battered baby syndrome"


The cervical spine is made up of 7 vertebrae. These are the bones of the spine. Their role is to support and protect the spinal cord. The facet joints provide a mobile link between each vertebra. Similar to other joints, they can wear down and become irritated. Intervertebral discs sit between each vertebra. The disc is made up of 2 parts: annulus(outer ring) and nucleus pulpous(center). The disc’s main function is shock absorption. The spinal cord gives out nerve roots at each level of the spine. The nerve roots are responsible for carrying information between the brain and the upper extremity. The vertebral artery is a branch from the subclavian artery. It passes from C6 toC1. The function of the vertebral artery is to supply the cervical segment of the spinal cord and approximately 2/5 of the brain. It’s branches in the cervical spine supply the spinal cord, the vertebrae and the muscles.


A whiplash injury can involve various structures;

Soft tissue:
Strain or tear of tendons, muscles, fascia, discs, or joint capsule.

Fracture(s) of the vertebrae.

The subluxation or dislocation of the facet joint(s) due to unstable ligament(s).

Spinal cord:
Stretching, compression or transection.

Vertebral artery:
Stretching, compression or tear.

Headaches and TMJ injuries are also very common with whiplash injuries.

Should you experience any of these signs or symptoms, please seek prompt medical attention:

  • Dizziness
  • Drop attacks
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Double vision

Depending on the extent of your injury, your doctor may order certain tests. Here are a few:


  • Show bones of the lumbar spine
  • May show degenerative changes
  • Do not show most soft tissue structures
  • Usually the starting point for tests

CAT Scan (Computer Assisted Tomography)

  • X-ray slices or cuts taken at specific levels which are computer enhanced
  • Allows you to view bones and soft tissue
  • Used to clearly define complicated bone injury

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

  • Uses magnetic waves to obtain images of bone and soft tissue
  • Shows nerves and discs very clearly

EMG (Electromyogram)

  • Tests the nerve roots
  • Consists of inserting tiny electrodes into different muscle groups
  • Can determine the condition of the nerve that supplies those muscle groups
Will Physiotherapy Help Me?

Your physiotherapist will take your detailed medical history. Then he or she will conduct a thorough physical examination, testing the quality and quantity of your cervical movement and strength, and perform a neurological scan including reflexes, key muscle and sensation testing. Your physiotherapist will also asses ligament stability and the vertebral artery when indicated.

Your physiotherapist will explain the findings of the examination with you and design an appropriate treatment plan for you. Depending on your condition, your treatment plan may include:

  • The use of a soft collar (acute phase)
  • Manual therapy to improve movement
  • Electro modalities to decrease pain and promote healing
    Hot or cold therapy
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stretching exercises
  • Education on mechanics, posture and injury prevention

To learn more about how you can access and benefit from our services, please contact us today!




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