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Whiplash is one of the most common types of injuries that you can get from a vehicular accident. This injury especially happens during a rear-end or a side-impact collision. A person can also get a whiplash injury not only from vehicular accidents, but also from activities like cycling, diving, horseback riding, football, boxing, and swimming.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a common term for soft tissue neck injury caused by a sudden and forceful shaking of the neck. During a car accident, your head may suddenly move backward and forward with great force. This motion can harm your muscles in the neck and your bones in the spine.

What Are The Symptoms of Whiplash?

The symptoms that are caused by whiplash injury are generally referred to as whiplash-associated disorder or WAD. A person who has WAD experiences neck pain and stiffness, as well as tightening of the muscles.

The symptoms may vary in every person. They can range from mild to severe pain in the neck and head area. Some people may also experience pain in their back and other extremities.

This combination of joint and neck pains, reduced mobility, and the irritated nerve can cause unresolved headaches. Other indications of WAD may also include pins-and-needles tingling in shoulders, and weakness or numbness in the arm.

As a result of all these symptoms, a person might have increased irritability. He may also experience depression, trouble sleeping, and reduced concentration.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

A physical examination is required to identify and classify WAD. The patient is encouraged to accurately describe the symptoms to the doctor to diagnose it properly. He may also need to undergo x-rays.

Whiplash can be classified based on the severity of the symptoms.

  • If a person who had experienced whiplash does not feel any pain on his neck and has no physical injury, he is considered to have a Grade 0 WAD
  • A Grade I WAD shows no physical sign, but the person feels pain, stiffness, or tenderness on his neck
  • A person with Grade II WAD experiences neck pain and some musculoskeletal signs such as a reduced range of movement and point tenderness
  • A Grade III WAD includes neck pain, some musculoskeletal signs, and neurological signs such as sensory deficits, decreased reflexes, tingling sensation, numbness, and muscle weakness
  • The most severe level of WAD, Grade IV, involves a fracture or dislocation, plus a neck pain

How is The Treatment and Recovery for Whiplash?

Early diagnosis and treatment for WAD can make a difference in the patient’s recovery.

Generally, a patient should stay active and resume regular activity if possible. However, he should limit or avoid activities that can worsen neck pain.

Applying ice can help in reducing the pain and swelling in the neck area. It can be done during the first few days after the injury occurred. Doctors may also prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as Tylenol and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

If WAD symptoms are severe and persisting, a combination of medical care and physiotherapy will be necessary.

Can Physiotherapy Assist in Recovery From Whiplash?

Physiotherapy is a treatment program performed to manage a whiplash injury. This treatment is carefully done by a physiotherapist according to the patient’s pain threshold.

Initially, the patient will be assessed through a detailed subjective examination of his current general health and past medical history. The physiotherapist then will propose a personalized treatment plan to the patient.

The treatment includes active exercises for neck stabilization and shoulder strengthening, mobilization, and relaxation techniques. Along with this treatment plan, the patient is advised to act as usual within tolerable levels.

Part of the program includes educating the patient about the injury and providing him a realistic overview of the treatment and its progress.

Generally, a patient who had experienced whiplash injury will recover within a few weeks to three months. However, some people may need a more extended recovery period, depending on factors like age and gender. Women and older people tend to be more vulnerable to whiplash injuries.

WAD symptoms may become persistent and recurring, especially for persons who had severe pain at the time of injury. Some patients also experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

Whiplash injury can have a long-term effect on the health and wellness of a person. It is essential to seek medical care and undergo physiotherapy to help achieve a full recovery from the injury.