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Whiplash: Management Tips

What is Whiplash?

Anyone involved in a car crash knows it can be an extremely traumatic experience that can result in major or minor injuries. Whiplash is a broad term that involves a lot of conditions involving the cervical spine. It is a common complaint and generally has symptoms that involve stiffness, dizziness, possible anesthesia of the arms, headaches and general arm pain. Whiplash is a difficult condition to manage and many individuals will often report pain a year or more later in the affected area. Many individuals will experience post-traumatic stress from the accident and possible depression or anxiety. Many individuals will also report high levels of pain and reduced physical function during the injury period.

How do you sustain a whiplash injury?

A common way to get a whiplash injury is from a car accident where someone hits you from behind. As shown in the picture above, the force from the impact of the car behind will result in your head being forced back, this creates a large amount of force going through your joints and muscles of the neck. As these muscles and joints work to then return your head to it's normal position, it can then be pushed too far forward creating even more strain. This often results in tenderness, stiffness and fatigue due to the large amounts of force that come through the joint and surrounding muscles.

Whiplash Symptoms

  • Sensory Loss

  • General muscle weakness

  • Possible reduced muscle bulk of the cervical flexor/extensor muscle group

  • Possible reduced muscle bulk of the scapular muscle groups

  • Loss of balance

  • Reduced proprioception and awareness.

Management of Whiplash

Management for whiplash is constantly evolving and there does not appear to be an exact method or treatment that is known to be 100% efficient.

Instead, patients are given a few options and will generally try multiple modalities before figuring out what their whiplash responds best to.

Some of these methods are listed below

  • Stay active with low intensity exercise such as walking

  • Range of motion exercises

  • McKenzie Exercises

  • Postural Exercises

  • Strength/Resistance Exercises

  • Motor Control Exercises

  • Manual Therapy

Length of Recovery

Generally most people will recover within 6 months, but there is no specific recovery time. Some individuals can take longer than 12 months and many have had pain lasting for several years.

If you are experiencing discomfort or having any issues with a possible whiplash injury, book in to see one of our physiotherapists to give you some assistance.

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