Have you been in an accident and experienced whiplash? If you have, you may not realise that physiotherapy can be beneficial during the treatment of your whiplash injury and associated disorders.
At Inline Physio, we even have a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist who is an expert in whiplash-associated disorders treatment.
If you’d like to find out more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of whiplash – including how our qualified team members can help – keep reading.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash, medically known as cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome (CAD), can occur when the cervical part of spine (the neck) jerks rapidly backwards, forwards or sideways past its normal range of motion.
This sudden jolting of the neck can injure vertebrae and joints, and overstretch the soft tissues (tendons, ligaments and muscles).
The term whiplash associated disorders (WAD) is a term used to describe the symptoms and clinical manifestations associated with a whiplash injury.
Causes of Whiplash
High impact events, where the neck is jerked around suddenly and forcefully, can cause whiplash.
The most common cause of a whiplash injury is a motor vehicle accident – particularly a rear-end collision.
Other causes include:
- Sporting injuries – contact sports where players could experience a blow to the head
- Amusement park rides which have quick jerking movements e.g rollercoaster
- Diving or bungee jumping
- Physical assaults
Some people experience pain and other whiplash symptoms directly after an accident or incident, while others develop symptoms and feel pain many hours or even days later.
Acute Whiplash Symptoms
The acute symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain,
- Dizziness, and
- Pain in other body regions.
Chronic Whiplash Symptoms
Unfortunately, for about 50% of people who’ve suffered a whiplash injury, WAD symptoms will recur within 6 weeks, but for many others, their pain and symptoms don’t subside in the short term.
Some of the most frequent symptoms of chronic WAD are:
- Neck pain,
- Dizziness, and
- Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve)
WAD is also associated with altered neck muscle function.
Common Whiplash Treatments
The treatment you are prescribed will be dependent on the cause of your injury and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
However, whiplash and associated symptoms are often treated in the following ways.
- Self-care: Ice, physical exercise.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), muscle relaxant.
- Physiotherapy: Manual therapy, strengthening and stretching exercise
In rare cases, injections into the neck may help.
If you believe you have sustained a whiplash injury, it’s important to seek a diagnosis and advice from a qualified health professional before beginning any treatment plan.
How Physio Can Help to Treat Whiplash and Associated Disorders
A trained physiotherapist can:
- Pinpoint the precise problem through advanced assessment techniques,
- Provide neck-specific exercises for strengthening and stretching,
- Offer tailored advice on how to remain active during recovery,
- Monitor your progress and help you determine the best course of action if you are not recovering.
Specific exercises for deep neck muscles are proven effective for people with long-term non-specific neck disorders.
For mechanical neck disorders and radiculopathy, moderate evidence supports combined cervical and shoulder strengthening exercises.
Physiotherapy for Whiplash
Along with developing an exercise program and monitoring your progress, a physiotherapist can also help to identify people who might be at risk of non-recovery after an injury.
Some patients can have complex presentations and may require different treatment, often outside the scope of the guidelines.
It’s recommended that physiotherapists refer these patients to a clinician with expertise in whiplash management who can provide advice to the primary carer. However, this referral process is often not followed, either due to difficulty in accessing clinical experts or concern about losing patients.
Clinicians with this level of expertise are often physiotherapists who have undergone specific training or clinical specialisation, or they provide independent peer reviews.
Whiplash Treatment Brisbane
At Inline Physio, we are fortunate to have a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, Tony McNamee, who specialises in neck and back injuries, including whiplash.
Our other physios can refer whiplash patients to Tony for personalised treatment and advice, if need be.