A whiplash neck injury occurs when your head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards in a whip-like movement usually caused in motor car accidents known as a “rear-ender”. These movements generate considerable force, typically causing the neck to move far beyond its normal range of movement and causes damage to the delicate supporting structures of the neck. Whiplash is effectively a sprain of the joints in the neck – Physiotherapists refer to this as a vertebral dysfunction.
Consider seeing a Physiotherapist even if whiplash pain is mild.
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Whiplash neck sprains are common. About 2 in 3 people involved in car accidents develop neck pain (with or without other injuries). Many people are surprised with the onset of neck pain following even minor accidents some hours following the accident. It is important to note that even minor car bumps can cause enough whipping of the neck to cause symptoms.
Whiplash can also result from falls and forceful sporting injuries that cause similar stress to the neck joints, ligaments, muscles and discs.
Assessment of Whiplash injuries is complex and should be undertaken by Physiotherapists with experience treating this condition, such as our Physiotherapy team at 4 Life Physiotherapy who regularly assess and treat patients with Whiplash.
A thorough physical and neurological examination is needed to determine the structures harmed during the Whiplash injury. Depending upon your symptoms, this may include postural assessment, range of motion, assessment of your spinal joints, muscle strength and sensation assessment. Typically, the injuries are sustained to the soft tissues; however, should the need to rule out other injuries such as bony injuries or disc injuries be required, your Physiotherapist can order x-ray and MRI examinations.
Following a thorough assessment, your Physiotherapist will be able to advise what is causing your Whiplash pain and develop and individual treatment plan to specifically address your issues.
Physiotherapy management of whiplash is extremely effective. Treatment aims to reduce pain and inflammation and stabilise your neck to prevent further damage. Ice is perhaps the best natural anti-inflammatory modality and it is also very soothing when your neck is painful.
Manual treatments such as joint mobilisation, dry needling acupuncture, massage and taping are used in conjunction with postural advice, stretching and strengthening exercises and pain management advice. If you can support your head and neck, it is especially important to keep your neck mobile rather than immobilising it in a soft cervical collar. Studies have shown that you are more likely to make a quicker recovery if you do regular neck exercises, and keep your neck active rather than resting it for long periods in a collar.
Some other helpful advice is to avoid poor neck posture during your daily routine and to use a firm supporting contoured pillow when sleeping.
Whiplash responds very well to Physiotherapy treatment, with most people experiencing significant improvement within weeks of beginning care. Contact us to make an appointment.