Most spinal problems occur as a result of small repetitive injuries over years. The human spine usually encounters more problems through micro-traumas over time than from just one significant accident. This process occurs much like wear and tear on the axel and tires of an automobile which experiences consistent and repetitive driving trauma. The same concept produces cavities in teeth and the hardening of arteries due to plaque build-up. The body experiences many symptoms which originate from a constant, repetitive exposure to stress.

Low-impact accidents cause early aging, degeneration, and wear and tear in the spine. Seemingly benign accidents occur at very low speeds or impact. Many symptom-filled people express surprise at the amount of degeneration and wear and tear present in their spine. Most determine that they cannot recall an isolated event severe enough to cause long-term damage. Yet research shows that even low-impact motor vehicle accidents still produce significant negative changes in the spine which include disc degeneration, bulges, and protrusions. Each of these conditions contributes to pain and discomfort easily treated by proactive health care treatment.

Researchers evaluated one-hundred, normal asymptomatic adults and compared them to one-hundred adult accident victims following rear low-impact motor vehicle accidents using an MRI. The ages ranged from eighteen to fifty-three years old with a median age of thirty-five years. Asymptomatic means the subjects experienced no symptoms. This study evaluated one group of 100 normal spines of individuals with no pain or symptoms and compared them to a group of 100 people involved in a low-impact motor vehicle accident within the previous 12 to 14 weeks.

The following four categories help explain the results of the study:

  100 Normal Subjects 100 Whiplash Victims
Loss of healthy neck curve (hypolordosis) 4% 98%
Neck flexion 50 degrees 25 degrees
Neck extension 60 degrees 35 degrees
Disc herniations              2% 28%

This 2002 study demonstrates that low impact accidents of any type can and usually will create significant problems in the spine which must be addressed. Some problems even occur without the presence of immediate symptoms but translate into permanent injuries after the body’s natural pain adaptation abilities deteriorate. Subjects in a low-impact car accident lost 50% of their neck flexion and over 40% of their neck extension, along with suffering more than 24-times more loss of proper neck curvature, and experienced 14-times more disc herniations than those who had not been in a recent car accident.

The findings of this study demonstrate why anyone in any type of motor vehicle accident, high- or low-impact, needs to have their spine evaluated and cared for immediately following the accident. Chiropractors deliver gentle adjustments which improve spinal range of motion, halt or slow the degenerative process, and improve central nervous system function. Even the lowest speed car accidents and traumas possess the ability to create permanent spinal problems and degeneration. A proactive approach to spine and neck care creates the opportunity to halt or reverse pain and long-term health concerns. Accidents happen but Chiropractic helps repair the damage.


Emerg Radiol. 2002 Nov;9(5):249-53. The use of flexion and extension MR in the evaluation of cervical spine trauma: initial experience in 100 trauma patients compared with 100 normal subjects.