Whiplash is defined as neck and/or back pain, usually as the result of a car accident although it is possible for other injuries such as sports injuries to result in whiplash. With whiplash, the neck is stretched beyond its normal limits and forced into an unnatural and painful position. Whiplash is quite common even in people wearing seatbelts and very difficult to diagnose and treat. In whiplash the damage occurs to the soft tissues such as discs, muscles, ligaments and any or all of these structures may be involved. Common symptoms are stiffness or soreness in the upper back, headache and pain in the neck. These symptoms may not appear until several days after the accident, but the good news is that for most people they clear in a few days or weeks.
Some Causes of Whiplash:
As mentioned above, whiplash can be caused by car accidents and also by other physical injuries sustained through sports for example. People who complained of neck pain following a motor vehicle accident were thought to be making it up to build a case for compensation because the damage caused by whiplash rarely shows up on X-rays. However, physiotherapy research in the 1980’s used other ways to show clearly that damage to the neck does occur and whiplash is real. Some statistics estimate that around a third of road accidents result in a whiplash injury.
There is no single treatment for whiplash because there is no single injury. Generally, whiplash injuries sustained from a car accident can go one-in-three ways: one-third of people involved in a car accident will feel no symptoms, one-third will develop some symptoms that flare up and need management and one-third will develop quite severe symptoms which may linger as chronic pain for years. It was once the case that most people who had suffered whiplash were advised to rest and wear a soft collar to support and protect the neck and keep it immobile. However more modern and researched thinking is that recovery will occur earlier and more completely if people keep moving and continue to exercise sensibly. The research clearly states that early mobilisation is the key and that physiotherapy can play a significant role in this. Depending on the circumstances; heat, ice, massage, exercises, traction, mobilisation, manipulation or ultrasound may be helpful.
What we can do for you:
If you know someone who has had a car accident, or you have had one yourself, it would be a good idea to ask one of our Chartered Physiotherapists to check for signs of whiplash – particularly if it was a rear-end crash. At PhysioCare, one of our Chartered Physiotherapists will help you decide which exercises are right for you and give you some tips about how to recover safely from whiplash. So, if you are unfortunate and have an accident that results in whiplash, you will be in safe hands when you consult us. All of our decision making processes are firmly embedded in line with current research findings that apply to your individual case.