The Unique Forces of a Whiplash Injury

During a vehicle collision, the head and neck rapidly accelerate and decelerate putting a tremendous amount of force on the upper neck joints in an area called the craniocervical junction.  The craniocervical junction is the most unstable part of the entire spine. Sitting right on top of these vulnerable joints is the skull, which commonly weighs around 15 pounds. 

In most situations involving an impact to the body, the forces of that impact would be able to travel throughout the skeletal frame. In an accident, the body is strapped to the car, but the head is able to fly around freely creating a whipping motion at the neck. 

Common Instability

The rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head and neck can misalign the craniocervical junction, the joints between the skull and the upper neck. The ligaments in the craniocervical junction are much weaker than the ligaments in the rest of the cervical spine. It is much more likely to misalign the upper neck than the lower cervical spine in a whiplash injury.  Because these ligaments are weaker, the whiplash injury can also sprain these ligaments easily. If these ligament sprains are not properly evaluated and the joints are left uncorrected, it can lead to long term craniocervical instability.

The symptoms related to this craniocervical misalignment from a whiplash injury include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems 
  • Pounding in the head
  • Muscle weakness
  • Balance issues

Advanced Imaging

The craniocervical junction is often overlooked or misunderstood in typical imaging that is taken after a whiplash injury.  Upper cervical chiropractors are the experts in evaluating the craniocervical junction. Upper cervical chiropractors take specific x-rays of the craniocervical junction.  These X-rays allow them to measure the precise alignment of the bones.

Upper cervical chiropractors also look deeper at the craniocervical junction on MRI, evaluating the small ligaments and structures that are within it.  By getting a comprehensive understanding of the upper cervical alignment and the stability of the upper neck, upper cervical chiropractors are able to make a specific plan for your recovery.

Gentle Correction

The upper cervical procedures use gentle and controlled methods of correcting the upper neck. Unlike typical chiropractic which can use more forceful adjustments, Upper Cervical doctors understand that a gentle approach is necessary. After an accident, stability is compromised, and too much force can prevent the neck and healing correctly.   

Upper cervical chiropractor train for years to be able to deliver precise and gentle corrections that are appropriate for each individual. Their postgraduate training prepares them well for handling complex injuries such as whiplash from car accidents.

Long Term Stability

The focus of care is to restore the long-term stability of the craniocervical junction.  This naturally improves the health and stability of the rest of the spine. Although every case is unique in complexity and severity, the goal of care remains the same. Upper cervical chiropractic care is not focused on repetitive adjusting. Instead, it is focused on making a stable correction to an area that is overlooked in much of the Whiplash treatment protocols. 

Whether your whiplash injury is recent, or occurred long ago, upper cervical care is an essential part of recovering from whiplash injuries.

Seek the Expert

Dr. Brian Neidenthal in Columbus, OH has a unique focus on correcting misalignments of the craniocervical junction that can lead to brain and body dysfunction.  His post-graduate training prepares him to identify subtle misalignments in this area and correct it using a variety of gentle and precise corrective techniques.  Designed to be a long-term solution, Dr. Neidenthal’s goal is to correct and stabilize the upper cervical spine to restore the integrity of the nervous system.  If you have concerns about you or your family’s health care, contact Atlas Family Health Center in Columbus, OH.


Woodfield HC 3rd, York C, Rochester RP, et al. Craniocervical chiropractic procedures – a précis of upper cervical chiropractic. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2015;59(2):173–192.

Kessinger RC, Boneva DV. Case Study: Acceleration/Deceleration Injury with Angular Kyphosis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2000; 23(4):279-87.

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