Whiplash is an umbrella term that describes injuries related to sudden acceleration and deceleration forces to the neck during a traumatic injury. It is commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, usually when the vehicle has been hit from the rear.
During an acceleration / deceleration injury of the neck, stretching and compressive forces are placed on the joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves primarily at the front and back of the neck. This may cause widespread damage to these structures.
Patients usually experience a sudden onset of neck pain during the trauma, however, some experience little or no pain at the time of injury. In these instances, symptoms typically increase over the following 2 to 3 days and may be prominent at night or first thing in the morning.
The pain associated with whiplash can be sharp or dull and may increase with movement or certain postures. Often patients experience stiffness or restricted movement in their neck. Pins and needles, numbness or weakness may also be felt in the arms, hands and fingers.
The underlying cause of pain will be different in every case and will vary in severity. Therefore a thorough assessment is essential. Progress can sometimes be hampered by psychological issues that often follow a traumatic event. These issues will need to be addressed to ensure a full recovery.
Treatment for Whiplash
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Spinal and pelvic realignment
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Exercise programs to stretch, self treat and improve proprioception, balance, strength and core stability
- Biomechanical Assessment
- Neural mobilisation
- Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
- Activity modification advice
- Ice or heat treatment
- Clinical Pilates
- Injection advice