Whiplash is a very common injury that can affect anyone. Whiplash occurs most frequently during rear-end motor vehicle accidents. When the body is struck from behind, the neck sharply extends backwards then flexes forwards past its normal range of motion and with excessive force causing a whiplash. This injury can cause damage to muscles in the neck, the ligaments, the vertebrae, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. In some cases, the pain goes away after a few weeks or months while in others it may become a chronic condition.
Symptoms of a whiplash are:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder region.
- Pain, tingling or numbness in the arms.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Blurred vision.
- There may be cognitive difficulties such as lack of concentration and memory loss.
- Psychological problems; sleep problems, depression and irritability.
In severe motor vehicle accidents, whiplash can damage the spinal cord, resulting in neurological dysfunction or paralysis below the vertebral level of the injury.
An X-ray is usually done to see if there is damage to the vertebrae, or sometimes an MRI is ordered to pick up any soft tissue injury as well as bony injury. For the first twenty-four hours, ice should be applied to the neck to relieve pain. After that heat is also beneficial. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving drugs. Wearing a soft cervical collar is occasionally advised to relieve pain, however, this should only be worn short term as wearing a collar long term could inhibit movement and decrease muscle strength.
Getting patients moving as soon as possible has been shown to aid recovery. Therefore, physiotherapy is recommended. We may use soft tissue massage, passive stretching, gentle joint mobilisation, acupuncture, trigger point therapy, ultrasound, heat, electrical stimulation or several other treatment techniques to relieve pain and we will get you started on range-of-motion, stretching and strengthening exercises. We will also supervise functional activities to ensure that you perform these safely and we will help you to return to your normal activity levels as soon as possible.
If you have sustained a whiplash injury, call us to see how we can help in your recovery and rehabilitation.