Whiplash is a term that describes injury to the neck, often occurring as a result of a car accident.

Any impact that causes your head to jerk suddenly backwards or forwards will cause neck strain, as the sudden forces stretch and can tear muscles and tendons in your neck.

Sometimes, the pain is immediate; but in other cases it might take several hours or even a few days before your neck starts to hurt.

A Word about Whiplash

Whiplash used to be a contentious legal issue, as many patients presenting with subjective neck pain are often involved in a legal issue as a result of an accident – but improved medical technology and clearer identification of soft tissue injury has helped clarify matters considerably.

Once a doctor or the staff at accident and emergency have objectively identified an injury, the diagnostic process is complete – now it becomes a question of pain management and improvement of the injury, so the patient can get back to normal life and a pain-free existence. That is the remit of Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic.

Whiplash can be extraordinarily debilitating, and sufferers often find that this type of chronic pain, other than the obvious physical problems it presents, can bring depression and exhaustion also.

The chartered physiotherapists at Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic are extensively experienced at treating whiplash injuries, allowing them to bring some level of relief to their patients and help them manage their pain.

How did you get hurt?

Being hit from behind whilst travelling in a car is one of the most common causes of whiplash- there are several factors about the mechanism of injury, or the way you got hurt, that affect the severity.

  • Posture at the time of injury
  • Overall physical condition
  • Awareness of coming impact
  • Gender- women are often more seriously hurt, as they have smaller bony structures and less muscular bulk as protection against the kind of forces that cause a whiplash injury.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Whiplash injuries can be quite complex and may include a variety of related problems, such as:

Tightness and Pain: The muscles may feel hard or knotted; you will have a decreased ability to move your head from side to side or up and down, and you might get headaches that radiate from the base of your skull.

Joint dysfunction: As a result of whiplash, one of the joints in the spine or limbs may lose its normal resiliency and shock absorption (or ‘joint play’), leading to restricted range of movement.

Disc herniation: A whiplash accident may injure the cartilage discs between the vertebrae in the neck- the Cervical Vertebrae. This may cause the disc to bulge, and if it comes in contact with and irritates a nearby spinal nerve root, a herniated disc occurs. There are many symptoms associated with a herniated disc, from sharp pain shooting down the arm, to numbness and tingling., with symptoms possibly including sharp, shooting pain down the arm and even neurological symptoms like numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Chronic pain: Some whiplash injuries cause immediate (acute) neck strain and muscle spasms that will heal over time; but more severe injuries can lead to persistent pain that lasts a long time- chronic pain.

Problems with Cognitive Function: In some instances, whiplash may affect the patient’s mental functioning, possibly leading to difficulties concentrating.

How Physiotherapy can Help Whiplash

Your treatment at Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic is designed for your particular injury; the extent of it; your level of pain, and your range of movement.

Some of the treatments involved will include

  • Massage and manipulation of the area
  • Correction of posture
  • Gentle stretching
  • Working on the soft tissue around the area
  • Trigger point work
  • Muscle retraining

In more complex whiplash cases, a multi-disciplinary management team may be needed; this may include Pain Management Specialists, your G.P. and possibly an occupational therapists in conjunction with physiotherapy – it depends on the severity of the injury and the impact on the rest of the body; your range of movement; your daily pain levels, and so on.

It’s important that your physiotherapist has a good overview of all methods being used to help you- for instance, are you taking anti-inflammatories and painkillers? Are you receiving any muscle injections to reduce sensitivity in the nerves?

Whilst many whiplash injuries are simple tissue strains that will subside over time, the early phase of the injury can be quite painful, so it’s important to ensure that the recovery can be tracked and is progressing in a predictable and suitable way, along expected recovery paths. If not, the clinical team involved – your doctor (s) and your physiotherapist, and anyone else who is helping you, must liaise to make any appropriate changes to the overall care plan.

To make an appointment, just call Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic in Dublin on 01 476 3330.