What is Whiplash?

Whiplash or Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) may be something you’ve heard of before, but what exactly is it?

Whiplash is a common injury that occurs primarily in the neck and upper back following a rapid acceleration-deceleration force (i.e. a car accident). When the neck is moved suddenly beyond its normal range of motion, the soft tissue structure over-stretch, resulting in pain and/or discomfort. This may occur after a car accident, a sporting injury, or from a fall. 

Whiplash is usually characterised by pain and tenderness through the neck that develops between 6 to 12 hours after injury, and may be accompanied by neck and back stiffness and a headache. Other symptoms of whiplash can include:

 

            • Swelling of the neck
            • Pain in the shoulders or arms
            • Numbness and tingling into the arms
            • Vertigo
            • Difficulty concentrating 

 

 

 

The symptoms from whiplash range from minimal to severe, depending on the degree of your injury. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have recently had a whiplash injury, it is important to seek care from a healthcare provider – either your doctor for an assessment, or your regular osteopath. If you were involved in a more severe incident (a car accident) and hit your head or lost consciousness, it is important you see your usual GP for an assessment and to manage any potential underlying concussions before seeking care from your hands on therapist. In serious whiplash injuries, there may be damage to the nerves in the spine, or potential fracture or dislocation to the neck. This is why it is important to seek medical attention after any kind of traumatic injury to the neck

How will an Osteopath treat whiplash?

After a thorough history-taking and examination, and any red flags or sinister causes for you pain have been ruled out, your osteopath can use a variety of techniques to ease your pain and discomfort. These may include soft-tissue massage, gentle joint articulation and mobilisation, traction, gentle stretching, and sometimes high-velocity low-amplitude techniques (HVLA, otherwise known as clicking of the joints). Some osteopaths also use dry needling as a treatment technique targetting tight (hypertonic) muscles. The way your osteopath treats you will depend on your presentation, how much pain you’re in, how much range of motion you have, and your preference to techniques. Your osteopath may also provide you with more at-home management strategies, to help you manage your pain yourself.

What can you do at home after a whiplash injury?

At-home management strategies, such as using a heat pack, having a warm shower and focussing the warmth over your neck/shoulder, or using a topical cream (magnesium, fisiocrem, deep heat) can all be beneficial in reducing the associated pain and stiffness you may be experiencing. If you are taking other medication, or are unsure of what topical cream to use, seeking advice from a pharmacist or GP is recommended (to avoid any interactions between medications or allergic reactions).

Dr. Sarah Duggan (osteopath at Total Balance Healthcare)

 

DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG POST IS AN EDUCATIONAL TOOL ONLY.  IT IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR MEDICAL ADVICE FROM A REGISTERED AND QUALIFIED DOCTOR OR HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

 

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