Whiplash "One in 200 of us will suffer a whiplash type injury at some time in our lives. They are not normally serious and most people who suffer from a whiplash injury go on to make a full recovery." A whiplash is a soft tissue injury often arising from minor trauma. It most commonly affects the neck though can also affect the thoracic and lumbar spine. Although it can cause considerable pain and discomfort it is rarely serious and most people make a full recovery in 6 12 weeks.

Whiplash can be caused by a road traffic accident (RTA) or sustained whilst participating in a variety of sports. It is commonly caused when the neck is jolted suddenly from behind and then recoils in a forward direction. This is the typical onset in a car accident where there is a rear end shunt. It may also happen in the opposite direction if you are unlucky enough to run into the vehicle in front.

With our roads getting busier ever day more and more of us are involved in road traffic accidents. It is estimated that 1 in 200 will suffer from whiplash at some time in our lives. If you follow a few simple guidelines in the early stages following a whiplash type injury you can really take control of your symptoms and help yourself to a speedy recovery.

A whiplash is rarely serious, however, there a few occasions when you should be checked over by your GP or nearest Accident and Emergency Unit. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or have been in a major accident we would advise you make an appointment to see your GP before seeking the help of a Chartered Physiotherapist. These include:- have severe neck pain, loss of consciousness, have a severe headache, disturbed vision, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, balance problems or pain with numbness or pins and needles in your arms.

It is normal to feel under some stress and anxiety following a whiplash injury but remember that being in pain does not mean that you have a major problem. It is important to stay as active as possible and carry on with every day normal life. Try and stay at work and carry on with hobbies. Let your employer know that you have had an accident and they will be more understanding and may be able to offer a lighter work load for a few weeks.

To help you carry on normally it is important to control the pain adequately. This can be done with the help of some over the counter pain killers. We do not recommend the use of anti-inflammatories in these early weeks as they have been shown to slow the healing process even though they do help control pain. Pain can be felt almost immediately after a whiplash injury, however, it is quite common for it to come on more slowly over the first 48 hours. This is as the inflammation builds up. This is nothing to worry about and is part of the normal cascading inflammatory process that is in fact essential to normal healing
If your pain is not controlled we would recommend seeing your GP who would be able to prescribe a stronger combination of drugs as appropriate.

Please remember that by controlling your pain effectively it will help you remain active and stop your joints from stiffening up. Hot or cold packs are also very useful in helping to control your pain and we would recommend trying either to see which helps you the most.

If your pain is not settling and you neck remains stiff after a week following the above advice we would recommend having an assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist who is specialised and experienced in treating whiplash disorder. They will carry out a thorough examination of your injury and give you education and advice specific to your problem.

Physiotherapists will also use a variety of other treatments to help control your pain and to get you moving again. Massage may be used to reduce tension and pain around your neck muscles. Electrotherapy or acupuncture may be used to help reduce your pain. Joint mobilisation and manipulation have been shown to be particularly helpful when used soon after the whiplash injury to restore normal movement.

Please remember that if you have been involved in an accident and have sustained a whiplash injury you can speed up your recovery by following a few simple rules.

It is usual to experience some pain and discomfort after your injury but this does not normally mean you have sustained a serious injury.

Get your pain under control with some over the counter analgesia. Use hot packs or wheat bags as well.

Take care of your neck posture and keep your neck moving by gently turning it to one side a few times then to the other.

If your pain is not lessening and your movements remain restricted after 7-10 days consider having a thorough assessment by one of our team and let us help speed up your recovery.

Please remember be positive and stay active.
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Manipulation Association of Chartered Physiotherapists Physio First Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Orthopaedic Medicine Society of Orthopaedic Medicine Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists