The cervical facet joints are a source of pain in some chronic whiplash patients. Clinical data show that a head-turned posture increases the severity and duration of whiplash-related symptoms. The objective of this study was to quantify strains in the facet capsule during whiplash-like loading with an axial intervertebral pre-torque simulating an initial head-turned posture. These strains were compared to previously-published strains for partial failure and gross failure of the facet capsule for these specimens to evaluate the potential for capsule injury risk in a whiplash scenario. Thirteen motion segments from seven female donors (50 ± 10 yrs) were exposed to axial pre-torques (±1.5 Nm), axial compressive pre-loads (45, 197 and 325 N) and quasi-static posterior shear loads (0 to 135 N) to simulate whiplash kinematics with the head turned. Three- dimensional displacements of markers placed on the right facet capsular ligament were used to estimate the strain field in the ligament during combined loading. The effects of pre-torque direction, compression and posterior shear on motion segment kinematics and maximum principal strain in the capsule were compared using repeated-measures ANOVAs. Axial pre-torque affected peak maximum principal strains in the capsule more than axial compression or posterior shear. Peak strains reached 34 ± 18% and were higher for pre- torques toward rather than away from the facet capsule. In other words, head rotation to the right produced higher strain in the right facet capsule than rotation to the left. Peak capsule strains were double and similar to those measured at partial failure of the ligament (35 ± 21%) compared to previously-reported data for these specimens under similar shear loads but without a pre-torque. Thus, a head-turned posture increases facet capsular ligament strain compared to a neutral head posture—a finding consistent with the greater symptom severity and duration observed in whiplash patients who have their head turned at impact.