Whiplash occurs when the soft tissue in the spine is stretched and strained after the body is thrown in a sudden, forceful jerk.
The injury most commonly occurs in car crashes involving sudden deceleration, but the injury can also occur in other strenuous physical activities such as diving. The incidence of whiplash injuries is about 500 cases per 100,000 population, per year.
Whiplash is characterised by a range of symptoms which may occur immediately after the incident and in some cases up to 48 hours after the initial incident. The most common clinical symptoms include spasms of the neck muscles, continual headaches and pain, reduced movement at the back of the neck, tingling in the arms, lumbar pains, fatigue, and sleep disruptions.
Managing whiplash can be challenging and a standard approach of managing any acute soft tissue injury should be followed. This may include rest, ice to help reduce swelling or heat to decrease muscle pain and spasm and anti-inflammatories as prescribed by your general practitioner or pharmacist.
It is good to be generally active within one’s limits. Most whiplash injuries do tend to settle down gradually and it is not unusual for symptoms to last a few weeks. Physiotherapy may be beneficial especially if there are restrictions of neck movement and pain which limits recovery. Physiotherapy treatment may include gentle stretches and exercises aimed at gradually increasing the neck mobility and gradually encouraging function.