MEDICAL-LEGAL FLIER BI-MONTHLY
Academy of Chiropractic
Personal Injury & Primary Spine Care Program
Trauma Series #41
WHIPLASH INJURES INTERVERTEBRAL DISCS
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Much research has targeted facet joints and spinal nerves relative to whiplash injuries. Prior to this study, very little information was produced regarding the exact mechanism of intervertebral disc injury as a result of whiplash trauma. Punjabi et al. (2004) determined that, “Following impact, the lower cervical spine experiences complex loading consisting of an extension moment and posterior shearing and compressive forces” (p. 1217). They hypothesized “that this loading pattern may injure the intervertebral disc” (Punjabi et al., 2004, p. 1217). Clinical studies have also shown that whiplash injuries accelerate degenerative disc disease when compared with age matched controls, most likely due to tearing the annulus fibrosis. In this study, the shearing forces caused by the whiplash trauma were most severe at the C5-6 level, which is the most common level of disc herniation in whiplash trauma.
Punjabi et al. (2004) also state, “The presence of nerve endings in the outer anulus fibrosus makes disc injury a plausible etiology of neck pain...” (p. 1224). This is an important fact to consider, as annular tearing may not necessarily result in an intervertebral disc herniation, but affects the nerves located in the annular fibers of the disc and can cause discogenic, or localized pain in the whiplash victim that can last a lifetime.
Panjabi, M. M., Ito, S., Pearson, A. M., & Ivancic, P. C. (2004). Injury mechanisms of the cervical intervertebral disc during simulated whiplash. Spine, 29(11), 1217-1225.