What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a type of neck injury that occurs after an incident involving sudden movement of the head and neck. Whiplash is a broad term that describes neck pain following an injury to soft tissue and or bony structures of the neck. These injuries occur due to a sudden acceleration-deceleration incident where the neck moves beyond its normal range of motion.
Whiplash is most often caused as a result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, and sporting incidents. In many cases whiplash incidents can occur together with concussion if head trauma has occurred.
Common whiplash symptoms include the following listed below. Symptoms can have a delayed period of onset after the incident.
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Reduced range of motion in the neck
- Pain and spasms in the shoulders/arms
To understand whiplash, it’s important to understand the inner anatomy of our neck. The neck has 7 vertebrae stacked on top of each other which surround our spinal cord to keep it safe. Most of the vertebrae in our neck connect to vertebra below by a pair of facet joints. The facet joints can be injured by compression if the neck is forcibly rotated or hyperextended. They can also be strained if the neck is flexed forward out of its normal range of motion. Soft tissue structures such as muscles and ligaments in the neck can also be strained by being moved outside their normal range of motion.
More severe cases of whiplash can compress the discs in our neck which sit between each vertebra. A compressed disc can become herniated and compress the spinal nerves which may lead to upper limb pain. At its worst, whiplash can cause fractures of the vertebrae due to excessive force placed on the bones. Fractures are less commonly observed than disc, muscle, ligament, and joint injuries; but are not to be missed.
Physiotherapy is recommended for treating whiplash-type injuries. It can help relieve pain and improve movement quality of the neck/head. Physiotherapy techniques to assist with your rehab include massage, joint mobilisations, stretching, range of motion and strength exercises, and advice.
Recovery can take time after a whiplash incident and the best outcomes are achieved when normal range of movement is restored as early as possible. If you are concerned you may have a whiplash-related injury please contact us at Hempstead Therapy Centre, so we can get you back on track.