What is whiplash?
Whiplash refers to an injury that results from sudden acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck. It can affect the muscles, joints, ligaments, discs and nerves.
Common causes of whiplash
- Car accident
- Sports-related collision
- Bungy jumping
The severity and symptoms of whiplash vary significantly between people. Symptoms can arise immediately after the injury, or there may be a delay in symptom onset of a few days.
Symptoms of whiplash may include:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Referral of pain into the shoulder, arm, or upper back
- Muscle spasms
- Pins and needles or numbness
Given the traumatic nature of a whiplash injury, there are certain symptoms that may warrant further investigations before physiotherapy treatment can commence. Please notify your treating physiotherapist or GP if you experience or develop any of the following:
- Progressively worsening weakness or sensation problems
- Bilateral pins and needles
- Gait disturbances
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Bladder or bowel problems
How long does it take to recover from a whiplash injury?
Recovery from whiplash varies from person to person. Some people can take a few days or weeks to recover, whilst others will take several months. Other factors can impact your recovery such as depression and trauma-related anxiety, particularly if your whiplash injury was a result of a severe motor-vehicle accident.
Your GP will assess the severity of your injury and prescribe the necessary medication to help with pain relief and reducing inflammation. Depending on the circumstances of your injury, psychological help may also be recommended.
It is important to seek treatment for whiplash early after injury to get it assessed and begin your recovery. Untreated whiplash can lead to chronic neck pain and mobility issues.
How can Physiotherapy help with whiplash?
Your Physiotherapist will take a thorough history to gather all the details about your injury and the symptoms that you are experiencing. They will perform a physical examination to assess your range of motion, strength, and functional abilities. They will then devise an individualised treatment plan tailored to achieving your goals.
In the acute stages of injury, treatment will primarily focus on pain relief, reducing inflammation, and minimising headaches. Hands on manual therapy such as soft tissue massage and joint mobilisation will be used, as well as ultrasound, heat packs and TENS. Initially you will be prescribed stretches and range of motion exercises to help improve your movement and flexibility. As your pain subsides, your program will focus on strengthening your neck and upper back muscles to help support your spine, as well as working to improve your posture. Your program will be tailored to your functional goals and getting you back to the activity or sport that you love.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, your physiotherapist can talk to you about the best sleeping positions and recommended a pillow that will best support your neck. You will also be advised on strategies to help you manage your daily activities and work. If you are an officeworker, you will be taught how to set up your workstation properly so that you are adopting good postures throughout the working day and not straining your neck.
If you are suffering from a whiplash injury and would like some more advice or treatment, you are more than welcome to book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists. Give us a call on +61 02 9875 3760 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be more than happy to help!