Efficacy & Therapeutic Strategies of Acupuncture
Applied to Treat Pain due to Whiplash Injuries
Yemeng Chen, L. Ac., FICAE
New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
155 First Street
Mineola, NY 11501
In our car-oriented society, whiplash injury cases are commonly seen in acupuncture practice.
These patients typically have long-term physical and subjective symptoms for which acupuncture
treatment is a useful modality.
According to 1994 estimates, upwards of 1 million people sustain whiplash-type injuries per year
in United States. Of more than 11 million motor vehicle accidents that year, 2.6 million involved
rear-end collisions in. Women (especially 20- to 40-year age group) have persistent neck pain
more often than men, by a ratio of 7:3. (1)
Whiplash injury refers to neck injury, resulting from hyperextension followed by flexion that
occurs when an occupant of a motor vehicle is hit from behind by another vehicle. Other terms
have been used such as cervical sprain, cervical myofacial pain Syndrome, acceleration-
deceleration injury, hyperextension injury and soft tissue cervical hyperextension injury. (2)
One study (3) showed the ten most-reported symptoms with their estimated prevalence: neck pain
(97%), headache (97%), TMJ (82%), Shoulder pain (65%), anxiety (55%), back pain (42%),
depression (41%), visual symptoms (blurred vision) (35%), and dizziness (23%). The clinical
features of whiplash injury include myofascial injury (cervical strain, muscle tears, and/or rupture
of ligaments), cervical disc herniation, cervical spine fracture and cervical facet-joint injury.
Acupuncture has demonstrated a significant therapeutic effect on myofascial injuries.
Long-term, positive outcomes of whiplash injury are elusive. One clinical trial (4) showed the
percentage of patients with residual pain: 44% had pain at three months, 30% at six months, 24%
at twelve months, and 18% at two years. But only 4% of the patients were considered disabled at
two years. If