Chances are you, or someone you know has suffered from whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly and forcefully thrown backwards and then forwards, resulting in damage to the tissues of the neck. While often caused by a car accident, whiplash can also be sustained during sports or other activities.
Physiotherapy is an effective treatment for whiplash and can help you recover quickly and resume your normal activities.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at physiotherapy for whiplash and how it can help you get back to feeling your best.
What is whiplash?
A sudden neck force causes whiplash, injuring the muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Whiplash occurs when the neck is forced to move beyond its normal range of motion. This causes pain by overstretching the neck’s tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Whiplash can also harm the cervical spine (the region of the spine in the neck), resulting in a herniated disc in the neck.
Common causes of whiplash injuries
- Car accidents.
- A heavy object bashing your head.
- A fall in which the head is shocked.
- A blow to the head, as in a contact sport.
Common symptoms of whiplash
Typically there is little to no pain at the time an injury occurs. Symptoms that often develop over time include:
- Tenderness in the muscles of the neck
- Aching and pains in the back muscles and neck, including shoulder pain
- Exceptional stiffness, especially in the morning
- Neck movements are restricted and painful, with a limited range of motion.
- Headaches that often begin at the base of the skull
- Sensory disturbances which include pins and needles or tingly sensations
- Persistent exhaustion
- Vision impairment
What is the best treatment for whiplash?
An experienced rehabilitation physiotherapist should advise you on the best course of treatment.
Possible whiplash treatment methods include:
- Maintain your regular routines: Act normally.
- Your physiotherapist will guide you through exercise to improve flexibility, strength, and posture.
- A physiotherapist will guide you through fine neck muscle and proprioception retraining programs.
- Acupuncture or dry needling to relieve pain.
- Joint manipulation or mobilisation is used to loosen stiff joints.
- Medication to help with pain, muscle tension, or psychological issues.
- Psychological counselling.
- If dizziness is one of your symptoms, you should consider vestibular rehabilitation.
- Soft tissue massage may help relieve short-term muscle tension.
- Electrotherapy can help with pain relief and early healing.
What happens in physio for whiplash?
Our skilled physiotherapists can assess your neck, upper back, shoulders, and upper limbs to determine your most appropriate treatment plan. We can guide you through pain management techniques and strength exercises to ensure a successful recovery.
The following are the goals of your physiotherapy treatment:
- Reduce the severity of neck pain, headaches, and inflammation.
- Restore joint range of motion.
- Strength training your neck muscles.
- Strength training your upper back muscles.
- Enhance your neck posture.
- Regulate your muscle lengths and tension at rest.
- Resolve any problems with neural tissue extensibility.
- Enhance your neck proprioception, fine motor control, and overall balance.
- Improve your ability to deal with everyday and more stressful tasks like lifting.
- Reduce your chances of developing neck pain or disability in the future.
How long does it take to recover from a whiplash injury?
Recovery times will vary, but most people recover completely from whiplash within six to eight weeks.
Since every person, accident, and whiplash injury is unique, the rehabilitation and treatment plan that your physiotherapist recommends may differ depending on your specific circumstances.
Some people have a strong stress reaction to the trauma, exhibiting symptoms such as nightmares, intrusive thoughts about the trauma, and becoming more irritable and quick to anger than usual. If this is the case, speak with your physiotherapist about possible psychological support.
You may be referred to a specialist if you cannot recover completely or see little improvement within 12 weeks.
The long-term effects of whiplash
Mild and moderate whiplash injuries do not usually have long-term consequences if they are correctly diagnosed and treated immediately. In mild and moderate cases, recovery usually takes a few weeks or months.
On the other hand, a severe case can occasionally result in disc degeneration in the neck and joint damage, resulting in long-term restrictions and pain.
Final thoughts on Physiotherapy for Whiplash
Whiplash can be frightening because the pain is often delayed and suddenly appears. The pain intensity usually increases gradually over the next 2-3 days.
Pain is usually felt in the neck but can also be felt in the head, shoulders, and arms. This can be a dull ache or a sharp pain that worsens with movement.
Remember that most whiplash injuries are not severe and that you will recover completely with proper prompt physiotherapy management and treatment.
Book an appointment with us today! Our team of experts will lead you down the best treatment path for whiplash based on a comprehensive assessment.