Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually

Jason · Mar 24, 2021 05:00 PM

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 01

Image credit

Picture this, you're waiting at the red light in your car, when you get rear-ended by the car behind you. Perhaps it was the adrenalin in that moment, but you felt no worse before the collision and you go on with you life.

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 02

Image credit

Few weeks in, you have this niggling, persistent pain in your neck, and an excruciating headache to go with it. A visit to the clinic tells you that you've had a whiplash injury. A what? 

Whiplash, what's that?

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 03

How a whiplash occurs. Image credit

According to WebMD, whiplash is simply an "injury to the neck." If that doesn't sound quite scary enough, it further states that if whiplash occurs, "the intervertebral joints (located between vertebrae), discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots may become damaged." Safe to say, not pleasant.

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 04

Can you spot the Star Wars reference? Image credit

Causes of whiplash can vary, but it is more prevalent in automobile accidents, most commonly rear-end collisions. WebMD outlines that a person gets whiplash due to "an abrupt backward and/or forward jerking motion of the head." The result is incredibly painful and can range from;

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Low back pain
  • Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue

Seems like a world of trouble that can be caused by something so seemingly innocuous. Fortunately, carmakers have been increasingly aware of this and have been making strides to address it. 

The unsung hero

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 01

#5: Headrest adjustment is often overlooked

When I was growing up, I noticed many cars of the late 80s/early 90s did not have headrests on their seats. But, as time went along, more and more cars started to have it. To me, the head restrain system (yes, your headrest) is the unsung hero of the automotive world, because seat belts and airbags are more attention-grabbing and obvious. It functions so much more than being just a place to rest your head.

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 02

Good headrests tilt forward to firmly stop the head

So, why is the headrest so important? Well, it can help prevent, or mitigate whiplash injuries. How so? Remember that whiplash is caused by "an abrupt backward and/or forward jerking motion of the head." The headrest limits and reduces said abrupt jerking motion (also called 'hyper-extending') significantly,

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 03

The pros show how it's done, top of ears meet the mid-point of headrest

The caveat being, you need to use it correctly. The headrest's mid-point needs to be positioned to meet the top of your ears for it to work effectively, or as high as it will go. This will enable the headrest to 'catch' your head in the backward motion, thus limiting any hyper-extension, should the worst happen. Yes, amazing that something that looks so simple can be of such great significance, right?

Conclusion

Your headrest is NOT for resting your head, actually 04

Don't end up like this kitty. Image credit

So, the next time you get in a car, remember to adjust the headrest to your optimal position. It can and will help you prevent a potentially painful neck injury in the event of a collision. After all, it is massively uncomfortable to move around with limited neck mobility and a brace wrapped around it.

Jason

Road Test Editor

Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.

Comments

Up to 20% higher than average trade-in price

2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV

Upgrade

Add your car

Service powered by carsome

Latest Cars