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Whiplash Injuries

WHIPLASH


DEFINITION

Whiplash describes the sudden forward-back movement, often of the neck, which most commonly occurs in car accidents, but can also result from a fall or impact to the head.

In a Whiplash injury the soft tissue and bony structures may be injured which can lead to a variety of clinical manifestations. (Whiplash Associated Disorders)

  • Pain

  • Headaches

  • Concentration issue

  • Hearing and/or visual symptoms

  • Pins and needles/ numbness

  • Weakness

It is important to consider that whiplash can present very differently from person to person with varying severity, area of pain and type of symptoms. Diagnosis should therefore be made by a trained and experienced professional.


GRADES OF WAD:

  • Grade I Complained of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs.

  • Grade II Neck complaint AND musculoskeletal sign(s).

    • Musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of movement and point tenderness.

  • Grade III Neck complaint AND neurological sign(s).

    • Neurological signs include decreased or absent tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits.

  • Grade IV Neck complaint AND fracture or dislocation.

  • (Quebec Task Force Classification)

ASSESSMENT OF WHIPLASH INJURIES

After a neck injury, your physiotherapist will carry out a thorough initial assessment. This will include:

  • Getting an accurate history of the injury and symptoms

  • Testing all relevant structures within the neck and elsewhere

  • Getting an accurate idea of your current function and the severity of injury

HOW CAN PHYSIOTHERAPY HELP WITH THE TREATMENT OF WHIPLASH?

The goal of physiotherapy in the treatment of whiplash is to:

  • Reduce pain

  • Improve range of motion/ reduce stiffness

  • Encourage active recovery of the neck and other affected regions

  • Address any neural sensitivity as a result of the injury

  • Return you to your pre-injury function

  • Reduce the likelihood of reinjury


Potential treatment methods used by your physiotherapist may include (but not limited to):

  • Advice on self management strategies

  • Joint mobilisation

  • Neural mobilisation

  • Soft tissue therapy

  • Acupuncture/ dry needling

  • Home exercise program with an aim to strengthen the neck, shoulder and back

  • Setting goals on returning to pre-injury function such as getting back into the gym, return to sport and resuming usual work duties.

Tips on Self Management

  • Maintaining normal life activities is important factor in getting better

  • Staying active is important in the recovery process

  • Range of motion of and muscle re-education exercises to restore appropriate muscle control and support to the cervical region in patients with WAD should be implemented immediately, if necessary in combination with intermittent rest when pain is severe.


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