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Old 3rd May 2020, 16:50   #1
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Default Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Safety has thankfully become a higher priority in the design of modern cars. The approach to designing a safe car however can be a pain in the neck for a few people - quite literally.

For a few years now, headrests in cars have been replaced by head restraints. These restrict the backward whip like movement of ones head in case of a rear collision, thereby preventing neck injuries, also called whiplash injuries.

To ensure that the restraint works well, *the U.S. government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)*has regulated a maximum distance of 2.2 inches between a person's head and the head restraint. That's a rather small gap. And when the head restraint is not protecting a person from whiplash, it's supposed to keep the neck and body in a "neutral" or natural position.

Unfortunately, the human population has started slouching a lot over phones and laptop screens. We've been slouching enough for regulators to change the so called "neutral neck position" considered in our regulations. See below:


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Unfortunately, this is now considered to be normal and the natural state for the neck*.


Crash test dummies are designed to reflect this forward head posture and hence, the head restraints end up getting designed to make passengers sit with their heads jutting forward. Check out the head restraints on some of the cars in our market:


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Ford Aspire


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VW Polo. Many cars in the VW family have such a strongly jutting head restraint.



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Honda WRV


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Honda Civic


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Kia Seltos


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Honda Jazz


There are cars that have active whiplash protection where the seats recline backwards in case of a rear collision, but for majority of the cars in the market, this passive way is the only way.

This is clearly not a natural position for most of us and can lead to strain and chronic neck pain in case of long term usage of such head restraints. Luckily, most of the passengers and drivers are able to adapt to this but there are many who cannot do so.

Many auto forums are loaded with complaints to this end and the issue seems rampant with VW cars in general.

On the personal front, I own a polo and there are two members in my family who have recurrently suffered chronic neck pain due to these head restraints for days after a single 5 hour drive. That does not bode well for a family which generally enjoys traveling and driving to places.

To counter this neck pain, most people on other auto forums have taken one of the below steps:
1. Put on the head restraints facing backwards. This doesn't provide complete whiplash protection, but significantly reduces the chronic pain.
2. Straighten the rods of the head restraint slightly. This is better than mounting the head restraints reversed, but could affect your warranty.
3. Hunt for and get new head restraints that may fit in your car. This is only for a lucky few. Some folks have modified head restraints from a VW beetle to fit into their Jetta.

To keep driving my family around, I have mounted my head restraints facing backwards. I know it could be unsafe in case of whiplash incidents, but a properly mounted head restraint is definitely unsafe for them for regular use.

It's a choice between low probability of whiplash injury versus high probability of chronic injury. Which one would you choose?
Have any of you faced such situations?

*I'm not an expert in automobile regulations. If I've missed something or stated it incorrectly, please do let me know. Thanks!

P.s.: here are some links in reference to this topic:
https://bodytx.ca/neck-and-shoulder-...icle-headrests
https://carrating.org/safety/head-re...in-in-the-neck
https://gokhalemethod.com/blog/63012
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Old 3rd May 2020, 18:24   #2
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Default re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

I drive a 2017 City and itís headrests are HORRIBLE. The way the extend forward puts a lot of strain and neck and shoulders start aching after a couple of hours. This gets worse with time as the soft seats start sagging. My solution: simply flip the headrest. Simple and no cost change and it majorly fixes the problem. Iíve also had the back and shoulder cushioning beefed up for added support.


Seats are essentially the same as the Jazz pictured above. See the difference. Especially the upper back cushioning.

Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain-feb45cd001fe435498afc9ec83ecdcd2.jpeg

Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain-f7ff67ebd0bb4bc181a09d53425f2fe9.jpeg

Last edited by Shreyans_Jain : 3rd May 2020 at 18:32.
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Old 3rd May 2020, 22:51   #3
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Default re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shreyans_Jain View Post
My solution: simply flip the headrest. Simple and no cost change and it majorly fixes the problem.
Thanks! That's something I've resorted to as well. It works well mostly. Significantly better than the factory mounted head restraints. But are you concerned about the protection it may offer in case of a rear collision?
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Old 4th May 2020, 14:27   #4
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Mod Note: Thread moved to the Road Safety section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 4th May 2020, 14:42   #5
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

This is interesting because my Fluence had these with a knob but were never comfortable yet the ones on Seltos HTE are very much so. My Octavia is better than Fluence but still not as good as Seltos. Also the seats in Octavia are hard unlike the ones on Seltos.
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Old 4th May 2020, 14:46   #6
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

I drive a jelly bean Zen. I’m sure that I don’t even rest my head on the head restraint of the Zen due to the straight position. Even if I try to rest my head on the restraint while driving, I start feeling little sick; don’t know why. Plus it gets me into an uncomfortable driving position. For any whiplash protection, it will work fine though. Even if I don’t rest my head on it as the head is just a few centimetres away from the head restraint which will provide the necessary support.

My other car is the 8th gen Civic and it has the ‘newer’ design slanting forward. But I’m not sure if I rest my head on it or not. Will check it out but I’m sure that driving long hours doesn’t really result in any pain.

Regards.
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Old 4th May 2020, 19:25   #7
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

The car seat geometry and position anyway doesn't allow a ramrod straight spine, you are inclined backwards, therefore head position WILL tend to be position a little ahead on the straight line.

The only way to resolves all this is to have taller seating (like bus / trucks), pedals underneath your leg/foot neutral position, this will allow a closer to 90 degree backrest and the headrest being in-line with the perpendicular.
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Old 4th May 2020, 19:25   #8
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajaiD View Post
This is interesting because my Fluence had these with a knob but were never comfortable yet the ones on Seltos HTE are very much so. My Octavia is better than Fluence but still not as good as Seltos. Also the seats in Octavia are hard unlike the ones on Seltos.

The only common thread I find in these is the fact that the fluence and Octavia are both Europeans while the Seltos isn't. On many forums and blogs, the head restraint neck pain issue is widely reported mostly on VW family cars (Europeans), a few Hondas and a couple of Fords. So your observation aligns with this as well!
How did you deal with the neck pain in the fluence?


Quote:
Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
I drive a jelly bean Zen. Iím sure that I donít even rest my head on the head restraint of the Zen due to the straight position. Even if I try to rest my head on the restraint while driving, I start feeling little sick; donít know why. Plus it gets me into an uncomfortable driving position. For any whiplash protection, it will work fine though. Even if I donít rest my head on it as the head is just a few centimetres away from the head restraint which will provide the necessary support.

My other car is the 8th gen Civic and it has the Ďnewerí design slanting forward. But Iím not sure if I rest my head on it or not. Will check it out but Iím sure that driving long hours doesnít really result in any pain.

Regards.
Maruti somehow still has comfortable head restraints. But they're still no match for their old generation cars. I love sitting comfortably in my BILs 2010 Wagon-R!
Even I don't usually rest my head on the restraint while driving. Like you, I find it disorienting for some reason. But the rest of my family does attempt to rest their heads, mostly unsuccessfully. No amount of adjusting the height makes it any better. Only flipping it around has helped.
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Old 5th May 2020, 06:39   #9
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Glad (well, in a different way and not the regular sense) to see that others too have had similar issues with the headrest. Apart from a occupational hazard related to a desk job, the design of the headrest too was an issue but since no one pointed it our earlier, I thought it was some issue with the way I was sitting or the the way the seat was positioned.

While most cars had similar designs, I primarily had more experience with the Innova, the Dzire and I20, with it being worst in the I20. Innova seemed to be good even on long 1000 kms journeys with me being the sole driver. The other car in which the neck rest actually supported the natural curvature of the neck for me surprisingly was the Verito/logan which I once got as a cab.

Finally since nothing was working our much, I decided to pull the headrests up a little from the base and have a pair of neck rests in the car. That did give some relief. Atleast, would support the neck curvature when I would rest my head back on the headrest.

Last edited by centaur : 5th May 2020 at 06:40.
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Old 5th May 2020, 14:01   #10
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Using a neck pillow is a simple and effective solution that I have found. Using a neck pillow of the right size will add extra padding to the base of the head restraint which could fix its awkwardly inclined position. I found this to be a cheap and effective solution which removes the strain on the neck.
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Old 5th May 2020, 14:47   #11
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha1 View Post

The only way to resolves all this is to have taller seating (like bus / trucks), pedals underneath your leg/foot neutral position, this will allow a closer to 90 degree backrest and the headrest being in-line with the perpendicular.
Agreed! That's something you'd notice in all tall cars, where there is some space to let a person sit in a more ergonomic manner. This is going to be one of the mandatory points when I plan to get my next car. Till then, folks with relatively low seating will have to deal with such seats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by centaur View Post
Finally since nothing was working our much, I decided to pull the headrests up a little from the base and have a pair of neck rests in the car. That did give some relief. Atleast, would support the neck curvature when I would rest my head back on the headrest.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AkhilR View Post
Using a neck pillow is a simple and effective solution that I have found.
Thanks! I think we have another thread where back pain issues with bucket seats were discussed and pillows played a big role there too. I guess it comes to creating some space between your back and the seat so that the head does not jut forward as much. I tried neck pillows of 3 different sizes but I've been unlucky with these as well. All spines are different I suppose
By the way, has anyone had any experience with donut shaped head restraints like in the Beetle? And in a relatively low slung car. I'm sure these in a Range Rover are bound to be comfortable.

Thanks!
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Old 5th May 2020, 18:07   #12
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Quote:
Originally Posted by MegaWhat View Post
By the way, has anyone had any experience with donut shaped head restraints like in the Beetle? And in a relatively low slung car. I'm sure these in a Range Rover are bound to be comfortable.
I have also been using Mitsubishi Lancer from 2012, which has donut shaped head restraint. But the Lancer in India is a very old model (1995-1999 international model). So the head restraint is not angled forward and a direct comparison is not possible with the newer head restraints. Nevertheless, I haven't felt the need for head restraints even on lomg drives, sometimes upwards of 600kms in a day.
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Old 6th May 2020, 10:48   #13
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Oh, I am so glad I found this thread. I have been getting neck pain whenever I drive my Vento(2016) for more than an hour, but not when I drive my older Hyundai Elantra. I was breaking my head over that issue, maybe this is the reason.
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Old 6th May 2020, 11:43   #14
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Contrary to perceptions of some people, I have found the seats of my 2019 Honda City to be supremely comfortable. I speak as a chronic back pain sufferer, and I did multiple test drives of many cars when purchasing the City last year. Especially the drivers seat is very supportive for the lower back, and with quality seat covers, it has been a back pain and neck pain free driving experience over 10,000 kms that I have covered till now. While I do have a pair of neck pillows in the car, I have not been required to use them.

Last edited by arindambasu13 : 6th May 2020 at 11:44.
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Old 6th May 2020, 13:09   #15
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Default Re: Whiplash protection vs Chronic neck pain

Found an old video of bending the head restraint rods using the car jack.



Can start watching after 6:00 minutes.
I have flipped my seats around and works for some time, but it's not a permanent solution. I might give this rod bending approach a try soon.
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