Whiplash is an injury to the neck region caused by a sudden forward and backward force of the head and neck. Most often, this is from a motor vehicle accident.
Cause of whiplash
Most of the time, whiplash is caused by a motor vehicle accident where someone is rear ended. This force pushes the car seat the person’s torso forward which causes a relative backward motion of the head. Following this, the head and neck are forced forward. This forced, unexpected motion can lead to stress/strain to the soft tissues surrounding the neck region.
How long does whiplash pain last?
Whiplash pain can last from a couple days to several years depending on the severity of the injury and also the condition of the individual prior to the injury.
Symptoms of whiplash
There are a variety of whiplash symptoms. Some symptoms that might be experienced include: neck pain, arm pain, shoulder pain, back pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, or numbness or tingling into the arm/hand.
What to do if you think you have whiplash
Go to your doctor or Physical Therapist. An x-ray might be recommended to rule out a more severe injury such as a fracture. Sometimes, other diagnostic tests may be recommended to rule out other issues such as a tear, disc herniation, etc. Often, after a motor vehicle accident, the individual is taken directly to the hospital where the above tests are performed immediately.
Treatment for whiplash
Physical Therapy is often recommended for whiplash. The physical therapist has the skills and knowledge to effectively diagnose and treat whiplash. Physical Therapists can expedite the healing process and provide for the best possible outcome by addressing the problems and building up strength and flexibility, which, in turn, can prevent/minimize the chance of future injury.
How Physical Therapists treat whiplash
The physical therapist’s goal is to get the patient back to their prior level of function. Often, patients finish their physical therapy course of treatments feeling better than they did prior to the whiplash injury.
After completing a full, comprehensive evaluation, treatment for whiplash has a four step process.
Patient education - teaching the patient body positions to avoid which can impede healing. Also, will teach good body positions to utilize while active during the day, when at work, or when lying in bed. This will allow for optimal healing by minimizing irritation and providing an adequate healing environment.
Manual therapy - manual therapy is physical therapist’s use of their hands to address flexibility and joint mobility. This is done by stretching muscles and fascia and by mobilizing joints of the neck and mid back. There are many different manual therapy techniques, including use of dry needling, that can be utilized and significantly improve the patient’s pain and improve function.
Exercise: exercises will emphasize the upper body to improve strength and stamina. This can improve function and reduce pain by providing adequate support to the upper body specifically around the shoulder blades and neck.
Modalities - various modalities such as electric stimulation or ultrasound can help in the reduction of inflammation, reduction of pain, and increase of blood flow to promote the healing process.
Contact ReThrive if you have any questions and/or need treatment for whiplash. It’s never too early to consult with a PT.