Diagnosis: Whiplash is an injury to the cervical region due to an uncontrolled, forceful back to front motion of the neck, similar to the motion of cracking a whip. This rapid movement has the potential to injure the vertebrae, intervertebral discs, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and other soft tissues of the neck. It may often be referred to as a neck sprain or strain, however these are umbrella terms that house additional neck injuries.
Causes: Whiplash is most often caused by automobile accidents, most specifically rear end collisions. However, it can be the result of any forceful trauma including physical abuse or sports injuries.
Symptoms: The most common signs and symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, reduced available motion, and onset of headaches. Symptoms usually surface within 24 hours and might also present with:
- Neck stiffness
- Increased pain with neck movement
- Pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
- Numbness and/or tingling in the shoulders, arms, and hands
It is important to see your doctor if you experience any neck pain or other whiplash symptoms following a car accident, sports injury or other traumatic injury in order to obtain and accurate diagnosis and rule out other injuries. Most people with whiplash recover within a few months after a course of pain medication, exercise and other treatments.
Our Physical Therapy Treatment: Goals of physical therapy will ultimately be to reduce pain, restore normal pain free range of motion, and allow for a safe return to all functional and leisure activities. Length of treatment and plan of care will depend on the severity of the injury, but will most commonly include:
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Mechanical diagnoses/treatment for improved movement and pain reduction
- Postural education and awareness
- Cervical stability and strengthening exercises
- TENS unit for pain control
Treatment will focus on educating the patient in an individualized self-treatment plan and establishing a home exercise program to further promote healing and prevention of future injury.