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Whiplash injury - Parts of the cervical spine

spinal regionsThe cervical spine is the area most affected when a whiplash injury occurs. The whiplash motion causes a sudden jerk of the cervical spine, often stretching the muscles and ligaments. Read an overview of whiplash injury.

A whiplash injury can cause much pain and discomfort to the neck, shoulders, back and head and recovery can take up to a few months. Read more about diagnosis and prognosis of whiplash injury.

This part of the spine is the most flexible and consists of the first seven vertebrae, starting just below the skull and ending at the top of the thoracic spine.

The vertebrae

The vertebrae are designed to support the weight imposed on the spine and the first two vertebrae are intended principally for rotation.

The first vertical body is called the atlas and bears the weight of the head. It is named after the Greek god who supported the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Axis is the next vertebra which sits below the atlas. This features the odontoid process, a bony knob which sticks up between an opening in the atlas and allows the head to turn from side to side.

Special ligaments sit between the atlas and axis to enable rotation. If these ligaments are damaged during a whiplash injury, the head will be severely restricted and very painful.

The intervertebral discs

These can be found between each vertebra. They are designed to shock absorb any strains to the spine and allow a certain degree of movement between each vertebral body.

The facet joints

Facet joints connect the bony arches of each of the vertebral bodies, allowing individual bones of the spine to move and rotate with flexibility. Facet joints connect each vertebra with the vertebra above and below it.

The neural foramen

This is an opening or protective passageway where the nerves exit the spinal canal in order to carry signals to the rest of the body. Two are located between each pair of vertebrae.

The spinal cord

The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and is essentially an extension of the brain. It extends from the base of the brain to the area between the first lumbar vertebra and the top of the second.

The nerves in each area of the spinal cord connect to specific body parts. The nerves of the cervical spine go to the upper chest and arms, explaining why pain and pins and needles to the upper arms is a common consequence of whiplash injury. Read more about signs and symptoms of whiplash injury.

Sustaining a spinal cord injury as the result of a whiplash motion is rare because the spinal cord is surrounded by a membrane called dura mater and is also protected by the bones of the spinal column.

If you require support following a whiplash injury visit

Making a personal injury claim for a whiplash injury

If you are suffering from a whiplash injury through no fault of your own then you may be entitled to make a whiplash injury claim.

As personal injury specialists, we can offer you free legal advice and guide you through each stage of the claim process. We can help you to claim for pain and suffering and recover costs for lost earnings and medical expenses.

We offer a no win, no fee service, which means that, if your claim is unsuccessful, you don't have to pay a penny. It means making a claim is a totally risk free process.

To find out more about making a personal injury claim for a whiplash injury or to make your claim today, just call 0800 197 32 32.