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Whiplash is an injury which may occur to the spine if the head is thrown forwards, backwards or sideways.

In 20I5 The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published guidelines on the assessment and management of people with Whiplash Associated Disorder.

Insurance statistics suggest the current annual incidence of whiplash is approximately 400,000 new cases in the UK per year.

Whiplash is an injury which may occur to the spine if the head is thrown forwards, backwards or sideways. Common causes of a whiplash injury are following a road traffic accident, a sudden blow to the head for example during some sports such as boxing or rugby, after a slip or fall where the head is suddenly jolted backwards or being hit on the head by a heavy object.

The latest theory on the mechanism of injury is thought to be that following a rear impact road traffic accident the lower neck is placed under a lot of stress which affects the disc, joints and ligaments in this area. This is followed by a shear movement in the upper neck which may result in local pain as well as headaches.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of whiplash often take a while to develop after an accident.  Any inflammation (swelling) and bruising in the neck muscles won't usually be obvious at the time of the accident. It may take 6 to 12 hours for the symptoms of whiplash to become apparent. The pain and stiffness are often worse on the day after the injury and may continue for a few days. Common symptoms of whiplash include: −

  • Neck pain and stiffness.
  • Neck swelling. 
  • Tenderness along the back of the neck. 
  • A reduction in, or loss of movement in, the neck.
  • Headaches.

Other symptoms include:

  • lower back pain,
  • numbness or pins and needles in the arms and hands
  • muscle spasms
  • dizziness
  • tiredness
  • difficulty swallowing
  • blurred vision
  • vertigo (the sensation that you are moving or spinning)
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy guidelines have shown that active interventions are probably more effective than passive if a patient with whiplash injury has physiotherapy treatment in the first couple of weeks post injury the prognosis is much better. Following an initial assessment with a physiotherapist, physiotherapy treatment may include joint mobilisations, soft tissue techniques and pain-relieving modalities. Advice and home exercises including postural training form a vital part of the recovery process.

The prognosis of whiplash injury is usually good, however if you are unfortunate to still be experiencing symptoms 6 months after the injury there is still a 40% chance of good recovery and a 44% chance of recovery with some residual symptoms following physiotherapy treatment.

If you are suffering with whiplash either see your GP or contact us directly on 020 8542 7788 to make a physiotherapy appointment.