What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury that can occur during a rear end car accident or during contact sports such as rugby. Whiplash and neck pain occurs when your head suddenly moves backward and then forward. These extreme motions push your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion.

Whiplash injuries can be mild or severe. Treatment typically begins with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice applied to the painful neck muscles. If pain persists, prescription medications and physical therapy may be helpful. Most people recover from whiplash in just a few weeks, but some people may develop chronic pain after a whiplash injury.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

Symptoms of whiplash may be delayed for 24 hours or more after the initial trauma. However, people who experience whiplash may develop one or more of the following symptoms, usually within the first few days after the injury.

Neck pain and stiffness
Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
Low back pain
Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
Ringing in the ears or blurred vision
Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue
In most cases, whiplash injuries are classified as soft tissue injuries, with structures such as the disks, muscles and ligaments being damaged. These structures cannot be seen on standard X-rays, specialised imaging tests, such as CT scans or (MRI) may be required to diagnose whiplash or rule out any other possible causes. However should you have any of the above symptoms following an accident, seek medical help.

How Is Whiplash Treated?

Many people with whiplash pain find it helpful to use ice or heat on their necks and upper backs. In general, ice should be used early in the recovery period, to reduce inflammation, while heat is especially helpful to relax muscles before range of motion exercises.

If over-the-counter pain medications and self-care treatments at home aren’t enough, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Physical therapy interventions are the mainstay of treatment for whiplash. Therapy treatments may include:

Manual therapies, including myofascial release
Stretch & Strengthening exercises
Rehab exercises can help to minimise symptoms, help protect your neck in the future and speed up recovery. Immobilising the neck for long periods of time can lead to decreased muscle bulk, strength and impair recovery.