What is ‘Whiplash’?
Whiplash is a term that describes the acceleration-deceleration force on the neck that often occurs in motor vehicle collisions (especially in rear-end or side impact collisions). Whiplash does not only occur in car collisions however – it can also result from a fall off a bike, diving accidents & even with tackles/falls in rugby. These forces can cause injury to the muscles, ligament & joints of the neck & back, however, they don’t always result in injury or pain.
What are the symptoms of injury caused by Whiplash?
It is important to remember that no two people will have the exact same injury or the same symptoms. Symptoms may come on immediately after the incident, or may be delayed by hours or even days, & they will often fluctuate in their intensity.
Symptoms may include neck pain & stiffness, headaches, dizziness, arm pain, arm numbness/tingling, visual disturbances, jaw pain & fatigue.
How quickly should I recover from a Whiplash injury?
Recovery time is varied. Some get better in days or weeks, others take months & occasionally one or two years. The important thing to remember is that whiplash is a condition with a high recovery rate – Most Get Better!
There are some things you can do to help optimise your recovery:
Stay active & continue/resume work – Studies show that people who resume their normal daily activities often recover faster than those who significantly alter/reduce their activity level.
Be aware of your posture – correct your posture frequently throughout the day and try to avoid sitting in one position for long periods of time
Be careful with lifting, carrying things & work – carry fewer grocery bags from the car at a time, use good lifting techniques
Adapt what you are doing if it is giving you pain. But remember, having some pain in the recovery period does not necessarily mean you have done more damage.
Be careful with household chores, especially vacuuming and mopping – take lots of breaks (or you could get someone else to do it for you!!)
Early management is vital. Even if your doctor does not refer you directly to physiotherapy, try to arrange an appointment as soon as possible after the injury. Your physiotherapist will assess your condition & use the appropriate treatment techniques to help restore your range of movement & reduce your pain. They will also provide advice on activity modification, posture & exercises, & can provide you with a cervical collar if they think you need it.