Whiplash occurs when a sudden and intense movement happens to the head moving it beyond its normal range of movement. This causes the neck to overstretch either sideways, backwards or forwards and can cause minor to extreme injury to the neck and all attaching muscles. Whiplash effects the tendons, muscles and ligaments.
If you experience a whiplash injury pain will often begin 6-12 hours after the accident/injury. Initial pain starts with the feeling of being uncomfortable and sore and over the coming days, pain, swelling and bruising will increase.
- Car accidents, most commonly rear-end collisions.
- Sudden blow to the head from contact sports eg; rugby, boxing, football tackles
- Being hit in the head by a heavy object
- An intense fall where your head is jolted/jarred
- In extreme cases physical abuse/assault from being punched or shaken.
The number one complaint of whiplash injuries is neck pain. This can range anywhere from mild pain, pins and needles and tingling to excruciating pain with migraines. Other symptoms include;
- Neck stiffness
- Reduced range of motion
- Neck instability
- Shoulder and/or upper back pain
- Headaches/migraines – most commonly starting at the base of the skull
- Tingling, weakness and numbness that radiates into the shoulder and down the arm into the fingers.
- Fatigue and dizziness/blurred vision/ ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbances and irritability/ problems concentrating.
Whiplash is a hard injury to prevent as usually it happens suddenly and unexpected and sometimes is at no fault of your own eg; car accidents
In sporting cases – it’s important to play safely, avoid head on collisions, and play within the rules to avoid serious injury for yourself and others.
- Myotherapy – manual therapy in an effort to increase range of motion and reduce pain by soothing muscle tension and spasms and increasing blood flow.
- Physiotherapy – aims at strengthening the neck and increasing flexibility which in most cases can relieve the stress on the spine and muscles and in turn reduce the pain.
- Appointment with your doctor for prescription pain medication – muscle relaxants.
- Depending on the extremity of the whiplash injections can sometimes be used to reduce nerve and tissue inflammation from a disc herniation, provide relief within the joint and the help irritated muscle bundles.
- Rest is important to a degree. It Is important to stay active if possible but a level of rest is needed to help repair the tissues and ensure you don’t exacerbate the neck pain.
- Ice to decrease pain and to temporarily close small blood vessels to prevent worsening of the swelling, then heat to encourage fresh blood to the muscles to replenish and flush out toxins and waste products.
It is also helpful to do some neck exercises. The recommended exercises are very gentle and usually take about 10 minutes each day to complete. Ask your doctor or health professional about the best exercises for you. Cease all exercises if you feel
- Dizzy, light headed, blurred vision, fainting, sudden shooting pain down your arm and/or weakness, brings on headaches/migraines.
Gently looking over your right shoulder and holding for 30 seconds, repeat on left side.
Gently bringing your left ear to your left shoulder to lengthen the trapezium muscle that runs from the top of your shoulder to the base of you scalp. For an added stretch you can gently pull your neck towards your shoulder at 5% power to increase the length of the stretch. Hold this stretch for minimum 30 seconds.
Gently bringing your chin to chest to stretch neck flexors. Then gently looking up to the ceiling/sky to relax your neck extensors and stretch the SCM muscles through the front of the neck. Hold both stretches for minimum of 30 seconds.
As an extension from the previous exercise by using your hands for a deeper stretch. Puling your head gently forward with make the neck flexion stretch deeper, whilst pulling down on your platysma at the front of your neck with stretch the fascia overlying the muscles.
To relax the shoulders and help mobilise the shoulder joint you can include your arm when stretching your left ear to your left shoulder by gently pulling down on the opposite arm. Hold for 30 seconds whilst maintaining a good straight posture.
**If you are experiencing pain, discomfort or an injury you are unsure of please seek professional advice from a doctor or your Myo/Phyio as this is general advice and is not to be used in replacement of**