What is whiplash?
Whiplash results from trauma to the neck when it is exposed to a sudden, sharp movement of the head or neck in one direction before immediately ‘whipping back’. Whiplash occurs specifically to the soft tissues that support the cervical spine, ie. the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
It often occurs after the trauma involved in a motor vehicle accident, but similar forces can also be placed on the neck, for example while playing sports such as football.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms may not present immediately following the injury, they can often take several hours or even days later. Whiplash can vary in severity depending on the speed and type of the accident, the position of the neck at the time of injury, the integrity of the spine prior to the injury and whether or not you were braced/prepared for the injury. Therefore, the period of time for which you may experience symptoms is highly variable, ranging from weeks to years.
Common symptoms include:
- Muscular pain
- Neck joint pain and stiffness
- Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
- Reduced neck range of motion
- Pins and needles, burning or numbness in the arm and/or hand
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurred vision
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Your physiotherapist will be able to identify which structures are the primary source of your symptoms and treat that area accordingly. Different techniques may be used by your physiotherapist to manage your whiplash and guide you through your recovery. These may include soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, heat therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound, dry needling, taping, postural re-education and a through, supervised home exercise program including stretching and strengthening exercises.
Your physiotherapist also plays an important educational role in the treatment of whiplash. Not only will they educate on the best ways to manage and cope with your symptoms, but correcting the ergonomics of your workplace, general fitness, postural re-education and listening all play an important role