What Are Whiplash Injuries And What Can I Do To Treat Them?

Vaidehi. November 22, 2022
All you need to know about a Whiplash injury!

Every day in the Sittingbourne Clinic I see around 4-5 patients who come to see me following a car accident. And it’s the same in the Maidstone Clinic. All these people have one thing in common – a pain in the neck. Unfortunately, these injuries are all too common, so it seemed like a good time to share some information on Whiplash injuries. Now, you will know exactly what you are dealing with!

IN my blog, I’ll give some information about whiplash associated injuries, what you should and shouldn’t do, and finally some Physiotherapy tips to follow following your injury.

Now, what is a whiplash injury?

If we use the example of the car accident, let’s take a moment to understand exactly what happens to our body when we sustain a whiplash injury. As soon as the car is hit, the head is thrown in the opposite direction. This sudden and unexpected movement causes the neck muscles to go into sudden spasms and stiffness to prevent further injury to the spine. Depending on the intensity of the impact it can create pain, muscle spasm, restricted mobility, headaches, or in the worst case scenario, fracture of the spine. Most common injuries are generally related to soft tissue damage with minimal or no involvement of the bones or nerves.

What parts of the body are involved and when should I expect a complete recovery?

Four out of every five people suffer from neck and shoulder symptoms. Every person responds differently to an injury or trauma, so the recovery time usually differs. One of the factors which affect recovery is motivation. The more you keep a positive attitude, the earlier the recovery will be. It also depends on the medical history, psychological and social factors. But generally speaking, a significant recovery is expected within 6-8 months of the impact.

Should I be completely resting my neck and wearing a neck collar after having a Whiplash?

My answer to this would be No! The rationale behind this is complete bed rest or keeping your neck protected by wearing an external neck support will worsen the spasm which can further create muscle weakness. Wearing neck collars can also create further tightness of the neck muscles. Research suggests that ‘Active rest’ in terms of frequent breaks in terms of work and simple gentle neck movements helps better with pain relief.

Should I be using an ice pack or a heating pad to reduce pain?

This is one of the most common questions asked by my patients. My simple answer to them is imagine you have a cut on your finger, will you put it under hot or cold water? The answer is cold. Similarly Whiplash injury is an acute trauma to the neck, so putting an ice pack on the neck helps to reduce the inflammation, thus, eventually reducing the pain.

Last but not least, does Physiotherapy help?

As mentioned earlier if muscles are not used to the movement, they tend to weaken and then get sprained easily. The continued inflammation will affect the movement of the muscles, which then affects the movement of the joints. If the joints are not moved within the range as they should be, they become stiff and can start showing degenerative changes. This vicious cycle can be stopped by seeing a local Physiotherapist who, after a thorough assessment, will give treatment options in terms of exercises, stretches, manual techniques and a home exercise programme to aid faster and complete recovery. Exercising the injured neck is extremely important for healing.

What exercises should I be doing?

Simple neck movements like moving the neck up, down and side to side. Hold each position for 5 to 10 counts and start again from neutral. You might hear some pops or clicks but that’s pretty common. Move the neck in each direction as far as you can and within the pain tolerance limit. Avoid sudden jerky movements. Keep your posture good while performing the exercises

I would always recommend that you seek advice from a medical professional and this article is not supposed to be a substitute for live medical advice. If you have been involved in a car accident or other incident that has left you with neck pain, I’d bet it is probably whiplash. Give me a ring and book in today!

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