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How can physiotherapy help with my whiplash?

19 September 2021

Whiplash can be alarming as the pain is quite often delayed and suddenly develops very abruptly, leaving you in extreme discomfort and unable to perform everyday tasks. Whiplash has an unknown and unpredictable prognosis – some people recover completely, while others suffer from it long-term. Rest, pain relief and stretching exercises recommended by a physiotherapist are good examples of early intervention techniques to effectively treat whiplash.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by abrupt acceleration-deceleration forces. When this motion occurs unexpectedly and with great force, you do not have time to react and brace yourself properly for the impact. This can result in soft tissue injury, which occurs when your muscles, ligaments or tendons become strained, causing soreness and irritation. While a whiplash injury is commonly associated with people injured in a car accident – especially a rear ended collision – it can also be caused by other events and activities such as roller coasters, bungy jumping and sports-related collisions.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

If you have been in a whiplash-related accident, you may feel fine at first. Your body will have generated adrenaline and other hormones in response to the shock to protect the area and delay the onset of pain. When you are relaxed and at home, they will wear off, and you may begin to experience symptoms and pain, mainly in the neck and/or shoulder area. You may also get headaches or numbness and pain that goes down your arms.

Whiplash, like any soft-tissue injury, has varying levels of severity and your diagnosis will be based on your history of injury and clinical testing. Radiological testing can assist in identify damage to specific structures such as a fractured vertebra, disc injury, muscles or ligaments. If you have dizziness, nausea, difficulty with your balance or double vision this is an indication that you have suffered a serious injury.

How long does it take to recover from whiplash?

Since each person, accident and whiplash injury is different, the rehabilitation and treatment method that your physiotherapist recommends may differ depending on your specific circumstances. Recovery times will vary, but the majority of people will recover completely from whiplash within six to eight weeks. If you are struggling to make a full recovery or see minimal improvement after 12 weeks, you may be referred to a specialist.

So, how can physiotherapy help my whiplash injury?

We strongly advise you to get a professional opinion if you have been injured in a car accident – especially a rear ended collision – and you are suffering from the symptoms listed. Your physiotherapy treatment will aim to:

  • Reduce the severity of neck discomfort, headaches and inflammation.
  • Restore joint range of motion.
  • Strengthen muscles in your neck and upper back.
  • Improve your posture.
  • Resolve any problems with neural tissue extensibility.
  • Improve your ability to cope with everyday activities.
  • Minimise your chance of future neck problems.

The team at Glenhaven Physiotherapy Centre are qualified professionals and highly experienced in a range of physiotherapy services including exercise programs, physio massage, pre and post-surgery rehabilitation, workplace injuries and motor vehicle accidents. Call our team today on (02) 9680 4960 to discuss how we can help you. 

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