What is whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues of the neck. It’s caused by a sudden and vigorous movement of the head – sideways, backwards or forwards beyond its usual range of movement.

What causes whiplash?
Whiplash injuries are most commonly caused by motor vehicle accidents, where the head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards in a whip-like movement. Other causes include:

  • a fall where the head is jolted or jarred
  • a sudden blow to the head from contact sports
  • being hit on the head by something heavy

What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Common symptoms of a whiplash injury are stiffness or soreness in the upper back, headache, loss of neck movement and pain in the neck. Some people may also feel dizzy, experience blurred vision, ringing in the ears and pain when swallowing. Whiplash symptoms may not appear until several days after the injury.

I’ve recently been in a car accident – do I have whiplash?
Around one-third of people involved in a car accident will feel no whiplash symptoms, one-third will develop some symptoms that clear up in a few weeks, and one-third will develop severe symptoms which may persist for some time.

If you’ve recently been in a motor vehicle accident and have symptoms including pins and needles or numbness, difficulty speaking or swallowing, gait problems or fainting spells, you should see your GP immediately.

How can physiotherapy help with whiplash?
In the past, people who had suffered whiplash were advised to rest and wear a soft cervical collar to support and protect the neck by keeping it immobile. More recently, research has shown that you’re more likely to have an earlier and more complete recovery if you stay active and continue to exercise sensibly.

Physiotherapy can be an important component of your whiplash recovery. At The Neck & Jaw Clinic, we’re experienced at working with whiplash sufferers to assess their injuries and provide treatment that increases neck function and reduces pain. We can assist with manual therapy and provide you with gentle neck exercises and postural advice to support your recovery. As with many conditions, early mobilisation is important.

How can I treat whiplash at home?
Combined with the gentle exercises prescribed by your physio, the following approaches may help accelerate your whiplash recovery:

  • applying an ice pack to the sore area for 5-10 minutes for the first couple of days after the injury
  • taking pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication
  • using a pillow to support your neck while sitting or lying in bed
  • avoiding sleeping on your stomach
  • taking regular breaks if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk

If you’re experiencing whiplash after a car accident or head injury, our Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist can help assist your recovery - make an appointment at The Neck & Jaw Clinic today.

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