Summary by Utah Sports and Wellness

Link to Original Article:

Journal of Osteopathic Medicine. June 2021. Michigan State University. 46 References.


The era of whiplash understanding began in 1997 with research at Yale School of Medicine:

  • Researchers showed that during a rear-end motor vehicle collision, the upper neck initially went into flexion while the lower neck went into hyperextension. This motion is referred to as the S-Shaped Curvature.
  • This study evaluated the magnitude of stretch to the rectus capitis posterior minor muscle during the initial flexion of the upper cervical spine.
  • They also evaluated how the stretch was affected by the distance between the back of the subjects head and the vehicles head restraint.

The authors emphasize the strong connective tissue between the RCPm & the spinal cord:

  • The primary author of this study was part of the team that originally documented the existence of this important connective tissue bridge in 1995.
  • This study used 3 female un-embalmed head and neck specimens, aged 85, 70, and 63 years.
  • Immediately following testing, the muscle tissues were analyzed to document muscle/tendon injury to the rectus capitis posterior minor muscles.
  • Whiplash type injuries resulting from a rear end motor vehicle accident cause excessive loading and displacement of structural components of the cervical spine.

Other Key Points:

  • Muscle strain injury would be expected to impact the functional relationship between the RCPm muscles and the pain sensitive spinal dura.
  • Risk of a muscle strain injury to the RCPm muscles is directly related to the magnitude of OA joint flexion.
  • Minor strain injuries usually repair themselves in a few days.
  • Major strain injuries result in tearing of the muscle and do not spontaneously repair themselves.
  • These injuries significantly impact the functional capacity of the injured muscle.
  • Head retraction exercises have a beneficial effect for patients with head and neck pain.