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Whiplash: What it is and how to prevent it

Among the numerous injuries one can suffer in a car accident, head, neck and spine injuries can be among the most painful and the most debilitating long-term. In today's post we'll discuss whiplash and a fairly easy way to prevent it.

Whiplash is a term that describes neck sprains and strains, which often occur in rear-end crashes. In mild cases, whiplash can result in tears in soft tissue, pain and muscle strain. Severe cases of whiplash can result in nerve damage, cervical vertebrae fractures and rupturing of ligaments in the neck.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whiplash, encompassing all neck strains and sprains, is more frequently reported in insurance claims than any other injury.

Whiplash usually occurs because the head and neck are unsupported in a car accident. Your torso is supported by both the seat and the seatbelt, meaning that it moves forward and backward in synch with the forces of the crash. If your head and neck are unsupported they may snap backward when your torso is pushed forward and then snap forward soon after that.

So how do you prevent whiplash in the event of an accident? In short: Make sure that your seat's head restraint is positioned where it should be. Most of us think of the extension on the top of our seat as a head rest, albeit not a very comfortable one. It is actually a head restraint, meant to support your head and neck during a rear-end collision.

Good positioning is the key to protection. When seated, your head restraint should be raised so that it is even with the top of your head. If you are tall and the head restraint does not reach that high, simply adjust it as high as it will go.

If you are particularly short, your head may not even reach as high as the head restraint. That's not a problem, as the back of the seat will provide the same head and neck support.

The next time you get in the car, take time to adjust the seat to give yourself leg room and make yourself comfortable. But while you do, also make sure that your head restraint is right where you need it to be.

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