Whiplash is a neck injury caused by sudden acceleration and deceleration movement of the head and is most common as a result of road traffic accidents.

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A bit about whiplash...

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by sudden movement of the head. Whiplash is most commonly caused by road traffic accidents however injuries from sports such as rugby, football, boxing and snow boarding can also cause whiplash along with roller coaster rides.

Common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head
  • Headaches
  • Pain and muscle spasm in the shoulders and arms

It can take several hours for the symptoms to appear after you injure your neck.

Whiplash occurs when a person’s head moves backwards and then forwards suddenly with great force. This injury is most common following a rear-end car collision.

Whiplash results when the soft tissues (the muscles and ligaments) of your neck extend beyond their typical range of motion. Your symptoms might not appear for a while, so it’s important to pay attention to any physical changes for a few days following any accident.

Whiplash is thought of as a relatively mild condition, but it can cause long-term pain and discomfort.

Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours after the incident that caused the whiplash. Sometimes, symptoms may develop after a few days. They can last for several weeks.

Common symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches, specifically at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Constant weariness

Less common symptoms associated with whiplash include:

  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Inability to sleep well
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, or head

In more severe cases symptoms such as numbness, pins and needles or weakness in the upper limbs can occur. Always see a healthcare practitioner if these symptoms appear.

What causes whiplash?

Whiplash happens most often after a traffic accident or a slip or fall.

Whiplash occurs when the muscles in your neck suffer a strain because of a rapid movement backward and then forward. The sudden motion causes your neck’s tendons and ligaments to stretch and tear, resulting in whiplash.

Some things that can cause whiplash include:

  • Car accidents
  • Physical abuse, such as being punched or shaken
  • Contact sports such as football, boxing, and karate
  • Horseback riding
  • Cycling accidents
  • Falls in which the head violently jerks backward
  • Blows to the head with a heavy object

Specialist treatment of whiplash

The treatments for whiplash are relatively simple. Over the counter medication, stretches and home exercises along with hot and cold therapy can provide relief. More severe injuries may require prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms.

Manual therapy plays a crucial role in recovery and prevention of the development of chronic neck pain and stiffness following whiplash. Multimodal treatment involving manual therapy, rehabilitation and strengthening exercises is recommended by the NICE guidelines in the treatment of whiplash associated disorders.

At The Medical, we specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neck pain and whiplash:

  1. Diagnosis - X-ray and 3D Movement Scanners
  2. Treatment - manual therapy, such as manipulating the spine and massage, carried out by physiotherapists, chiropractors or osteopaths
  3. Strength and conditioning - Pilates and rehabilitation where you're taught exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture

Your road to recovery begins with a full assessment with a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath.

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