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Whiplash Neck Injury

by Jane Hodgson 9 September 2011


Whiplash associated disorder, unsually just known as whiplash neck injury, is a soft tissue injury to neck. Whiplash treatment includes the use of pain relief and gentle specific exercise.

Whiplash is a common cause of neck pain with an estimated 300, 000 new cases occruring in the UK every year. Most commonly whiplash neck injury  results from a car crash, but sporting accidents can also cause whiplash symptoms.

Whiplash is bony or soft tissue injury to the neck caused by acceleration/ deceleration forces

The most common symptoms after a whiplash neck injury are:

  • Neck pain. This is the most commonly reported symptom after a whiplash injury
  • Headache, the second most commonly reported symptom. Headache occurs if the tissues towards the top of the neck are affected. The resultant headache is often felt at the back of the head, or in the forehead region.
  • Pain radiating to the upper back, or arms.
  • Pins and needles in the arm or hand.

The vast majority of people who suffer a whiplash type injury will experience some weeks of discomfort, but will soon return to normal pain free living. However in a small percentage of cases serious injury can have occurred. If any of the following are experienced after whiplash injury a medical opinion should be sought:

  • A feeling of unbalance when walking
  • Pins and needles or numbness in the tongue
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Eyesight disturbance

Self Help in the First 2 Weeks After Whiplash Neck Injury

It is important to keep the neck, back and shoulders moving as normally as possible in the initial stages after a whiplash injury. Things that can help are:

  • Pain relief; either through the use of medicines, or using warmth or ice.
  • Exercise; Research shows that to gain best benefit it is advisable to commence an appropriate exercise programme within 4 days of the injury.
  • Return to normal activities as soon as possible.
  • Tens; a small electrical device that provides pain relief

The Best Exercises for Whiplash Symptoms

In the first two weeks after whiplash the main aim is to reestablish pain free movement of the neck, shoulders and back. The best exercises vary on exactly which structures are causing problems, but may include: neck mobilising exercises such as turning the head from side to side; shoulder mobilising exercises such as rolling the shoulders round; and upper back exercises like rotating from side to side. At this stage exercises are usually performed slowly and rhythmically the empahais is on restoring movement and the exercises should not be painful.

Physiobench can provide an individually tailored exercise programme depending on the exact nature of the injury.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand your injury. Should you have any concerns about your whiplash type injury you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.

Personalised treatment

For the inclusive package of £28, you receive a personalised injury self management programme comprising exercises and expert advice from your chosen physio.

Included in this price is a follow up assessment, which you can choose to take at any time within 3 months folllowing the initial assessment.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

Whiplash can cause headaches if the joints at the top of the neck are affected

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