07 June 2023

Most people have heard of whiplash and associate it with an injury that occurs from a car accident. Lots has been reported in the media about whiplash claims with insurance companies and whether the claim was genuine or falsified. Whiplash can also occur in other scenarios including in sports, for example in football or rugby when tackled from behind.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is predominantly a neck strain injury as a consequence of a sudden force from behind, which causes undue flexion or extension (or both) of the neck. The result of those sudden and harsh movements are severe pain and the restriction of movement in your neck. You may feel like you have a stiff neck for a long period after the incident. Shoulder pain is also common with whiplash.

Whiplash injury

How do you get whiplash?

If you are struck from behinn this can force your neck forwards and backwards quickly and cause whiplash. The first part of your body to move under these circumstances are your back and hips, your head is then often thrown backwards into extension then forwards and upwards. During this process, the cervical spine (the top part of your spine in your neck area) is compressed as the joints between your vertebrae are squeezed together.

How do you know if you have got whiplash?

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident or been struck badly from behind during a contact sport then your neck may be painful and feel stiff. You may have pain and stiffness in your shoulders and between your shoulder blades. It can make you feel tired and irritable, cause your vision to blur and you might even have some ringing in the ears. The movement in your neck and shoulders can be compromised.

In severe cases, some memory loss can occur as well as problems with concentration and fatigue. Long term damage can leave you with restriction in movement and chronic pain.

What should I do if I have whiplash?

Rest is important in the first instance but gentle movement in less severe cases will help prevent the neck stiffening up too much. In some patients a collar may be used to immobilise the neck but this is becoming less favourable with clinicians in general so as to encourage faster healing. Good rehabilitation will include a number of gentle exercises designed to improve flexibility at the cervical spine and strengthen the soft tissues in the neck and shoulders.

Soft tissue therapy and sports massage can help with whiplash recovery and manage the symptoms. It can help speed up the process of regaining range of movement and reduce pain and stiffness. Take a look at our back, neck and shoulder treatment.

Author: Cross Massage Therapy