Whiplash, or acceleration / deceleration injury as it is also known is injury to the neck, caused by a rapid forwards and backwards motion of the head. This occurs most commonly from a car accident, although can also be sustained through sports involving direct contact or a fall onto the head.

What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

  • Stiffness and pain in the neck which may not come on immediately but develop over the following 24 to 48 hours
  • Reduced range of movement in the cervical spine (neck)
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision (this should go within 24 hours, if they persist consult your doctor)
  • Pain and stiffness may last a few days, to a few weeks, depending on the severity

Watch out for the following:

  • Severe pain in the back of the head
  • Pins and needles or numbness in the shoulders or arms
  • Memory loss
  • Unconsciousness

All of these symptoms could indicate a more serious injury or concussion. If any of these symptoms are present you should return to the Doctor or hospital.

Whiplash Explained

Whiplash is basically a neck muscle strain and/or ligament sprain within the neck. The most commonly injured muscles are the Sternocleidomastoid, Levator scapulae and Longus colli. In more severe cases of whiplash there can also be nerve damage and fractures of various processes of the cervical vertebrae

Treatment of Whiplash

  • Visit your Doctor or hospital to get the neck checked for fractures and nerve damage
  • Applying cold therapy can help relieve pain and inflammation in the first 24-48 hours
  • A Doctor may prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen
  • Neck collars are not being used as widely now in the treatment of whiplash injuries because early mobilisation and range of movement exercises are being encouraged. This has been shown to decrease recovery time
  • Try to gently move your neck in all directions as soon as you feel able to and on a regular basis (every couple of hours)
  • Try to increase the range of movement each time
  • All exercises should be within pain free limits
  • After the acute phase (minimum 72 hours), manipulation and deep tissue massage may help restore normal function to the neck
  • Stretching exercises for the neck can also be used, again provided they are pain-free