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Physiotherapy for whiplash

Whiplash describes widespread neck or spinal pain following an injury in which the neck or spine is jolted forwards, backwards or sideways rapidly

Common causes of whiplash developing include:

  • Road traffic accidents
  • Falls and trips
  • Sports (especially contact sports)

Although whiplash is a condition which can cause persistent pain, it is not associated with structural damage to the joints, discs, ligaments and muscles of the spine. Therefore, the primary treatment for whiplash is physiotherapy rather than injections or surgical procedures.

Physiotherapists will be able to make the diagnosis of whiplash at your initial assessment based on the typical history and following a physical examination.

Once this diagnosis is made it is important to start active treatment as soon as possible as long periods of physical inactivity and rest following the diagnosis has been found to prolong symptoms.

Our physiotherapists will initially assess the severity of the symptoms and the impact they are having over activities of daily living, as well as occupational postures and tasks or sports.

Normally a combined approach of carefully graded activity, specific strengthening exercises for the area of the spine affected and regular stretches will be prescribed.

Expert spinal physiotherapists may also make adjustments to ergonomic factors such as sitting postures, as static positions may aggravate symptoms.

Manual techniques such as spinal mobilization and manipulation, as well as soft tissue techniques applied to overactive muscle groups, may also be employed to more rapidly alleviate symptoms.

The widespread nature of pain and sensitivity of many normal spinal or neck movements, which often occurs after whiplash, may mean that a full resolution of symptoms may take several months.

Precise timeframes for a full resolution of symptoms will depend on the severity of the initial whiplash injury as well as several other factors such as age and general health, which have an impact on how quickly the body can respond to injury.

While individuals suffer with ongoing symptoms associated with a whiplash injury, it is very important that they remain active and continue with normal activities, occupation tasks and sports as much as they are able as this has been demonstrated to be beneficial to longer term outcomes.