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Whiplash

Whiplash is a term used to describe a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways.

It often occurs after a sudden impact such as a road traffic accident. The vigorous movement of the head damages the ligaments and tendons in the neck.

Tendons are tough, fibrous bands that connect muscles to bone. Ligaments are the fibrous connective tissues that link two bones together at a joint.

Common symptoms of whiplash include:

After an accident, the symptoms of whiplash often take a while (6-12 hours) to develop.

The neck pain and stiffness is often worse on the day after the injury and may get worse for several days afterwards.

Causes of Whiplash

Road accidents are the main cause of whiplash, but it can also occur following:

Diagnosing Whiplash

Whiplash can usually be diagnosed from a description of your symptoms. Tests and scans are not usually required.

Visit The Physio Centre if you have recently had a road accident or a sudden impact to your head and are experiencing pain and stiffness in your neck.

The Physio will ask about your symptoms and details of how the injury happened. They may also examine your neck for signs of muscle spasms, tenderness and to assess the range of movement in your neck.

X-rays and scans, such as computerised tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), will usually only be recommended if a fracture or other problem is suspected.

Treating Whiplash

Whiplash is often a self-limiting condition, meaning it eventually gets better on its own or after a short course of physiotherapy treatment.

If you have whiplash, it is better to move your neck rather than keep it still using a neck brace or collar. Your neck may be painful, but keeping it mobile from an early stage will improve its functionality and speed up your recovery.

Painkillers, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be used to help relieve the pain.

Whiplash that lasts for six months or more is sometimes known as chronic whiplash.

Your treatment plan should be based on your symptoms. If you have severe pain, your GP can prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine or recommend physiotherapy.

Treatment & Mobilisation

If you have whiplash, it is important you keep your neck mobile by doing some gentle neck exercises.

Your neck may be painful, but keeping it mobile from an early stage will improve its functionality and speed up your recovery. Any pain you experience when moving your neck is normal and will not cause further damage.

Resting your neck and keeping it still is likely to prolong your symptoms and delay recovery. Therefore, using a neck brace or collar is not recommended.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatories

Analgesics (painkillers) can be used to help relieve the pain of a whiplash injury.

Paracetamol is recommended to treat mild to moderate neck pain. You should use it regularly rather than only when the pain is most severe.

If you have severe neck pain, your GP will be able to prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine. This can be used on its own or in combination with paracetamol to provide increased pain relief.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can also be used to help ease pain and reduce inflammation.

Always follow the manufacturer's recommended dosage instructions when taking painkillers and NSAIDs. Avoid taking ibuprofen if you have a stomach ulcer, or if you have had one in the past. Also avoid taking ibuprofen if you have severe heart failure or liver disease.

Physiotherapy for Whiplash

If your symptoms of whiplash continue for several weeks, physiotherapy may be recommended.

Physiotherapy uses a range of physical techniques, such as massage and manipulation, to help restore function and movement. It can often help restore a person's range of movement following a whiplash injury.

Your physiotherapist will also be able to show you neck exercises you can do at home.

Chronic Whiplash

Symptoms of whiplash can sometimes last six months or longer (chronic whiplash). There is little in the way of scientific evidence to suggest which treatments are most effective for treating long-term whiplash.

However, keeping your neck mobile and using painkillers to provide pain relief are recommended. Your treatment plan should be based on your specific symptoms and focus on dealing with the cause of your pain.

If you have severe neck pain, a stronger painkiller, such as codeine, can be prescribed to either use on its own or with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Again, you should always follow the manufacturer's dosage instructions when using painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

Self care

As well as keeping your neck mobile and using painkillers, the self care measures below may also help you manage the pain and stiffness in your neck and prevent them getting worse.

How Do I Book My Treatment for Whiplash?

Please call the Physio Centre on 020 8990 9041 or send us an email to treat@thephysiocentre.com

All our Physios speak English but we can also cater for Hindi, Punjabi, Telugu, Urdu and Gujrati speaking patients.

Need a physiotherapist in Hounslow? Give us a call 020 8990 9041

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