Roller Coasters and Whiplash - Minimise the Risk

Posted in Head Pain Disorders Neck Pain Disorders on Apr 2, 2016

I love roller coasters. Well, I used to but haven't been on one for many years. Not the little ones either, but the big 50+ meter ones. However, as both the enthusiast and the chiropractor that roller coasters and other amusement park rides can exert a terrible toll on the body (as one lady I saw just the other day could attest after going on one such ride on her husband's recommendations).

Its Easter time! And like any other school break in North Lakes, Brisbane, or SE Queensland, I'm sure the kids (young and older) may want to check out the local amusement parks. If you or your family are inclined to go on these rides, please have fun! At the same time, may I offer 3 recommendations to minimize injuring yourself on roller coasters or other side rides?

  1. Sit in the front with your eyes open. (… What? Are you crazy?!) When you can see which way you are about to zip, spin or tumble, your body reflexively protects itself. If a person is in a car accident, it is far more likely that they will suffer a complicated injury if they did not see that the impact was about to happen. Similarly, if you sit towards the back of a roller coaster where the whiplash effects are the greatest anyway, your inability to see what is about to happen can cause more damage than if you are able to see.
  2. Keep your head pressed against the back of the headrest. If you stick your head forwards, you risk not only bashing your ears but also injuring the ligaments in your neck if the ride jerks suddenly sideways. It's really no different than inside a car where you should also keep your head against the headrest. However, when strapped into a machine with nowhere to go and where you will be subjected to forces much greater than gravity, it is all the more important to keep your head against the headrest.
  3. Get your upper neck checked 1-3 days afterwards. Again, have your fun (I know I have), but then make sure that you get into checkup with your chiropractor that you have not inadvertently created a problem. You don't have to have blood or broken bones or even pain at all to have a subluxation (misaligned vertebra) in your neck or spine, and it is always easier to correct the problem (if present) when small than later. Get checked!
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