What is whiplash?whiplash

Whiplash is what happens when someone’s head moves forwards and then backwards quickly. This often happens in car crashes.

What happens?

When someone has whiplash they may experience a whiplash-associated disorder (WAD). WAD covers a range of neck problems resulting from the whiplash motion of the accident. Neck pain is the most common associated symptom with a whiplash injury. Some other things people with whiplash may experience are:

  • Headaches
  • Shoulder/arm pain
  • Dizziness or pins and needles or numbness
  • Weakness in the arms

When should I seek advice?

You should seek medical advice after an accident if you have:

  • Medium to severe pain in your neck
  • Neck pain plus stiffness (can’t turn your head)
  • Arm numbness or weakness
  • Drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion
  • Complaints that you are not getting better or are getting worse

These symptoms may mean you have a WAD.

How is a Whiplash associated disorder (WAD) treated?

Your doctor will provide you with information, advice and the recommended treatment.

How long till I get better?

Most people will be able to continue with their normal activities, but it may take weeks, or months, for the discomfort to go away completely. Most people recover completely from a WAD although some take longer than others. Every injury is different.

What can I do to get better?

Managing yourself is important in the early stages of a whiplash injury. Treatments that are recommended include:
Act as usual – Pain is a normal reaction to being hurt. You have may have pain but maintaining your normal activities is an important factor in getting better.
Exercise – Specific exercises to restore muscle control and support your neck should improve postural control and prevent unnecessary postural strain. General exercise is also important
Pain relieving medication – Such as paracetamol can be prescribed.

What do I do now?

Your PPS Physiotherapist can also assist you in providing a combination or treatments including advice about posture, massage, passive joint mobilization and manipulations, TENS, heat, ultrasound, acupuncture that may be used to help you progress, especially if you are not improving.

*Information extracted from the MAA authority ‘Your guide to whiplash recovery” 2nd edition 2007 Booklet