By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a relatively common injury which is related to damage to a number of soft tissue structures in the neck region like muscles, ligaments and/or tendons.
Whiplash injuries occur with a rapid acceleration-deceleration force causing a ‘whipping’ of the head and neck. Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) is the umbrella term used to describe the injuries and symptoms that occur as a consequence of these forces. Whiplash is most commonly related to motor vehicle accidents (especially rear-end accidents) but also with bungee jumping, sporting injuries and head-banging.
What are the signs & symptoms of whiplash?
- History of trauma to head/neck
- Neck pain, stiffness and headaches
- Aggravation of neck pain with movement
- Decreased spinal curve in the neck region
- Fatigue or mood disturbance
What can I do to help myself if I’m suffering from Whiplash?
If you believe you are suffering from whiplash, apply ice for the first 24-48 hours’ after injury to minimise swelling/inflammation in the region. We recommend application for 20 minutes of every hour avoiding direct skin contact with the ice (place a towel between). After this initial period, heat can be applied in the form of a heat pack. This encourages blood flow to region, promoting repair and relaxation of muscles.
Performing gentle neck range of motion exercises within pain limits is alsoencouraged. This aims to prevent loss of neck range of motion and decrease stiffness. It is also important to avoid activities which aggravate pain and strain the neck such as heavy lifting.
Immobilization using a cervical collar is not recommended for this injury.
For more information on Whiplash, you can watch the following video, or click here.
When to see a health professional for Whiplash?
Even if your symptoms are mild you should seek assessment as soon as possible after the injury. This may improve your chance of a better and speedier recovery. Without any intervention whiplash injuries can result in chronic pain or psychosocial issues (like anxiety or depression).
How will a health professional treat Whiplash?
A health professional, such as an Osteopath, Chiropractor and Physiotherapist, will take an in depth history of the complaint and assess the spine for its range of motion, restrictions and muscle tension in the region. Provocative testing will be done to establish exactly what structures are causing your pain, and if there is further concern, you may be sent for further imaging such as an X-Ray or MRI.
Your health professional will use a range of techniques to decrease your muscle spasm, decompress the area, increase spinal range of motion and spinal curves.
At the end of your appointment your health professional will reassess the region for any improvements or changes. They will take time to educate you on how best to manage your injury until your next appointment, which will likely include personalised exercises to perform and activities to avoid.
For more information on other conditions of the neck, click on the following conditions:
- Neck Pain
- Neck Pain due to Poor Posture
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Facet Sprains
- Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
- Cervical Osteoarthritis (Neck Arthritis)