According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association, whiplash is defined as:

“….an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck. It may result from rear-end or side-impact motor vehicle collisions, but also can occur during diving or other mishaps. The impact may result in bony or soft-tissue (whiplash) injuries, which in turn, may lead to a variety of clinical manifestations.”

Modern safety equipment (seat belts, shoulder restraints and air bags) have effectively reduced the severity of most injuries to the spine: however, trauma to the neck is nearly unavoidable.  Some of the more common symptoms associated with whiplash injuries are:

  • headaches
  • neck pain & stiffness
  • back pain & stiffness
  • hip pain & stiffness
  • arm/shoulder pain (numbness & tingling)
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • memory & concentration problems
  • visual disturbances

While the majority of injured individuals experience symptoms within the first week following the accident, it is not uncommon for symptoms to remain dormant for months or even years.  It is not safe to assume that because your car sustained minimal damage, that so did you.  Recent studies have demonstrated that collision speeds as low as ten kilometers per hour can result in significant injury to your neck (cervical spine).

If you do not receive proper care, injury to the cervical spine can result in chronic neck pain.  According to Croft and Hohl, such injuries can result in degeneration of the joints and associated structures of the neck.  These are life long and life altering changes.  It should be known that while pain killers and muscles relaxants may decrease the intensity of symptoms, they do not repair the damage sustained by joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

If you have been in a car accident of any magnitude, you should seek a focused physical examination.  Early detection and correction of spinal injuries can prevent a life time of pain and suffering.  Chiropractic has proven to be very successful in helping individuals achieve optimal health following the effects of a motor vehicle accident.

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, take responsibility for your own health and schedule an appointment to be evaluated by your Comox Chiropractor, Dr. Houlgrave.


  • Ensure all your car’s lights (dash, brake, signal & running) are working properly.
  • Set up your seat and head rest for proper biomechanics.  There should be no more than 2 inches of space between your head and the headrest.
  • Always wear your seat belt and shoulder harness.
  • When coming to a complete stop, leave at least one full car length between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
  • When coming to a complete stop, look into the rear view mirror to see if the car behind you is paying close attention.  You may have to use that extra car length in front as an escape route.
  • Avoid major distractions – never talk or text on a cell phone while driving.
  • If an accident is inevitable, look straight ahead and gently press yourself into your seat.