What is Whiplash?
Whiplash describes the pain from an injury to the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments and facet joints) of the neck and back. Whiplash is most often used to explain neck pain following a rear-end motor vehicle accident, but it can also occur during sporting activities or accidental falls. Whiplash is a type of strain/sprain injury that involves rapidly accelerated cervical spine (or lumbar spine) flexion-hyperextension. In cases of a rear-end collision, the speed of the cars involved or the amount of physical damage to the cars may not relate to the intensity of the injury. Car speeds as low as 15 miles per hour can produce enough energy to cause whiplash in occupants, with or without the use of seat belts. Symptoms from a whiplash injury may occur immediately or a few days later. The most common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Low back pain
- Visual disturbances
- Nerve irritation
A truly comprehensive approach in treating whiplash pain should include the following:
- In most cases of whiplash, physiotherapy is utilized initially to reduce acute pain, inflammation and muscle spasm.
- Adjustments or manipulation are vitally important to correct biomechanical joint restrictions that develop following the injury or that may be present prior to the injury.
- Muscle and soft tissue techniques can help reduce muscle/ligament pain, tightness and adhesions and improve muscle/ligament function.
- Specific “low tech” rehabilitation exercises and assisted stretches are recommended to regain core stability, strengthen weak/inhibited muscles, and improve flexibility and range of motion.
- An anti-inflammatory diet with appropriate supplementation can significantly help reduce whiplash pain.
- Postural and repetitive stress activities may need to be addressed to prevent aggravation of the injured soft tissues.