Whiplash is the sudden forward-back movement, often of the neck, which most commonly occurs in car accidents, but can also result from a fall or impact to the head.
This can cause injury the soft tissue and bony structures may be injured which can lead to a variety of clinical manifestations known as Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) such as pain, headaches, concentration issues, hearing and/or visual symptoms, pins and needles/ numbness and weakness It is important to consider that whiplash can present very differently from person to person with varying severity, area of pain and type of symptoms. Diagnosis should therefore be made by a trained and experienced professional.
GRADES OF WAD (Quebec Task Force Classification)
- Grade I Complained of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs.
- Grade II Neck complaint AND musculoskeletal sign(s).
- Musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of movement and point tenderness.
- Grade III Neck complaint AND neurological sign(s).
- Neurological signs include decreased or absent tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits.
- Grade IV Neck complaint AND fracture or dislocation.
ASSESSMENT OF WHIPLASH INJURIES
After a neck injury, your physiotherapist will carry out a thorough initial assessment. By getting an accurate history of the injury and symptoms and testing all relevant structures of the neck and elsewhere.
HOW CAN PHYSIOTHERAPY HELP WITH THE TREATMENT OF WHIPLASH?
The goal of physiotherapy in the treatment of whiplash is to reduce pain and improve range of motion/ reduce stiffness. We try our best to encourage active recovery of the neck and other affected regions neural and muscular sensitivity. Ultimately we want to return you to your pre-injury function and reduce the likelihood of reinjury.
Physiotherapy treatment of whiplash usually includes joint mobilisation, neurodynamic treatment, soft tissue therapy and/or dry needling. Additionally your physiotherapist will give you a home exercise program with an aim to strengthen the neck, shoulder and back.
FIVE Quick Tips on Self Management:
- Stay calm, the vast majority of whiplash injuries recover with appropriate treatment and rest.
- Maintaining normal life activities is important factor in getting better. Try to do as much as you can around the house and work as pain allows.
- Staying as active as possible is important in the recovery process. Try going on short walks or gentle swims in the pool if tolerated.
- Do gentle range of motion exercises to prevent further neck stiffness.
- Heat pack to the neck or back for 10-15 minutes regularly through the day can make a big difference.