Have you been in a car accident or had a sudden jolt which has hurt your neck? Chances are you have sustained a whiplash injury. It is important to contact your doctor and physiotherapist to help recover from this condition.

What is it?

Whiplash is when your head moves suddenly in one direction and then back quickly. This movement may cause injury to your neck. Whiplash can happen in a car crash. Depending on the severity of the injury, whiplash can affect various structures in your neck including muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, discs and nerves. Most people recover from whiplash within a few days or weeks. Others may take several months to get better. Everyone’s recovery is different (SIRA, 2014).

Signs and Symptoms

  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the shoulders, arms or upper back
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness
  • Altered sensation
  • Weakness

How can your physiotherapist help?

The best way to manage whiplash is with an individualised approach which focuses on your specific dysfunctions. A physiotherapist can help perform a detailed assessment and formulate a plan to help treat your injury. Your physiotherapist can in the following ways:

  • Exercise to improve flexibility and strength
  • Manual therapy and tissue massage to help release tight structures and improve movement
  • Fine neck muscle and proprioception retraining to improve postural stability
  • Acupuncture and dry needling to reduce pain

What can you do at home?

  • Stay as active as you can and don’t avoid exercising or moving
  • Continue on with your daily routine
  • Try to keep doing your usual daily activities as much as you can. This will help you get better. Remember that some pain and discomfort is normal during the recovery process.
  • Stay on top of your exercise program as provided by you physiotherapist
  • DON’T avoid moving or avoid activities of everyday living due to the pain
  • DON’T ignore your pain and get advice from your doctor and physiotherapist

SIRA. (2014). Guidelines for the management of acute whiplash associated disorders for health professionals.. [online] Available at: https://www.sira.nsw.gov.au/resources-library/motor-accident-resources/publications/for-professionals/whiplash-resources/SIRA08104-Whiplash-Guidelines-1117-396479.pdf [Accessed 11 Mar. 2019].