TOP 5 COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WHIPLASH. What is whiplash, what are the symptoms of whiplash, how does it occur, what imaging is needed and what is the treatment of whiplash?

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a type of injury affecting the neck where your head moves outside its normal range suddenly in one direction then back in the other direction.

Whiplash can affect the different structures in your neck including the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, blood vessels and nerves.  

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

The most common symptom is neck pain but other symptoms can include: aches in the upper back and arms, headaches, feeling a little dizzy or bruising on the front of your chest from a seatbelt.

Symptoms are usually experienced within 12-24 hours after the injury.

How does whiplash occur?

Whiplash can occur with any activity that causes your head to suddenly accelerate and then decelerate in a direction. This is commonly associated with car accidents but can also occur in sports where you may collide with another player, common in footy or rugby or as an accident when your head is jolted in a fall. 

Do I need to get an X-ray if I have whiplash?

Imaging including x-rays in majority of whiplash injuries isn’t needed, however in some cases where symptoms are severe further investigations such as X-rays may be necessary.

A health professional such as an Osteopath can help with understanding how the injury occurred and assessing your injury to determine if further investigations are needed.

What is the treatment for whiplash?

The recommended treatment for whiplash is to continue doing your normal activities and not limit these activities as it could delay recovery.

 If needed an Osteopath can discuss modification of your daily activities and provide suggestions of ways to remain active after your injury.

Pain is a normal response to injury and so it’s ok to feel pain. Depending on the injury, you may start to notice improvements in function and decreases in pain within a few days or weeks, others may take longer up to several months.

You may find it helpful to visit you GP to discuss medications or other strategies for pain management.

As part of remaining active, neck exercises may be recommended to help increase the amount of movement of your neck and strengthen areas. 

An osteopath can offer manual therapy to address some musculoskeletal components of your injury such as soft tissue techniques to help loosen muscles, articulation or mobilisation techniques to help any restricted joint and myofascial release to release fascia. These techniques will be used to improve your function and healing and will be used with conjunction with the suggestions above.

If you experience symptoms such as numbness in your extremities, you are unable to turn your head more than 45 degrees to each side, have been in a large forceful accident or are older than 65 you may need to see a GP to rule out a fracture or dislocation.

Our friendly osteopaths at Osteo for families can help with the assessment of your neck after a whiplash injury and offer treatment, advice and exercise to help you recover. You can call us on  0416 161 411 or visit our website to book an appointment


Foot notes:

Quick reference guide for the management of whiplash associated disorders (whiplash injury)