If you have recently been in an incident whereby your head was forced through a movement that involved a sudden jolt forwards followed by a jarring backwards then you may be experiencing symptoms of whiplash. This mechanism of injury usually occurs as a result of a rear impact from a road traffic accident. It can also occur though, from a sporting accident. Often the first reaction to a whiplash associated disorder is shock and this can cause you to not note pain straight away. It can take a few minutes, hours, days or even weeks before the symptoms develop and typically they get worse before they get better. Movement of the head is often restricted and painful, the muscles at the top of the shoulders and the bottom of the neck will become tight and tender. Headaches are common. Sometimes there can be referred pain into the arms or tenderness across the chest from the seatbelt. As you are holding tension in the upper back the lower back will try to compensate. This can then lead to more tenderness and pain.
A whiplash patient will soon learn to move the whole body to look around to avoid moving the neck and the body will be tense. This altered use of the body and the inflammation in the joints cause the muscles to work too hard in their protective role and this over activity of the muscles causes further fatigue and pain. These compensations are soon accepted by the body as ‘normal’ and then you are unable to stop this cycle of immobility and pain without following professional advice. Mechanical whiplash needs early intervention. Basically, the body, in trying to protect itself, results in more muscle spasm and altered posture. This does not help to increase range of movement but actually creates a pattern of misuse that can take a long time to correct.
Physiotherapy for Whiplash
Whiplash injuries are so commonly seen within our Physiotherapy practice that all of our Physiotherapists attend annual updates for the management of whiplash disorders. This gives you the confidence that we will help to ease your discomfort and return you to full pain-free function as quickly as possible using the most current, relevant techniques. Our Physiotherapists will advise you if we think that you should attend for further investigations. So you can be assured that you will be safe with us. The management of whiplash is a two way process. You will need to keep moving – even if you are afraid. We will give you the re-assurance that you are safe to move and will guide and support you through a home exercise programme that will be designed to regain full movement, strengthen the muscles that are weak and that have become inactive following the trauma and we will look at exercises that can correct any postural imbalances that you may be presenting with.
We have to address the fact that one of the reasons that whiplash causes such disruption to our lives is that our necks are vulnerable as a cause of our sedentary but stressful lives. We will advise you on corrective postural techniques and changes to your lifestyle that will help to correct these imbalances and decrease the tension that you probably hold in your shoulders everyday. Manual therapy can help to speed the recovery of your whiplash injury. Soft tissue techniques including massage can ease the tightness or tenderness of the muscles and can improve joint range. Techniques to the joints can ease inflammation, reducing pain and again, improvement mobility. If the pain is too much for manual ‘hands on’ techniques then your Physiotherapist may choose to use electrotherapy with heat or cold therapy to ease the muscle spasm and joint inflammation. Together with your compliance and our expertise we can soon return you to your normal activities.
Making Physiotherapy Stress Free
We are aware that following a road traffic accident you will be bombarded with forms and paperwork. This eats into your precious time and this stress will aggravate your already tight neck and shoulders. Physiotherapy is for you to get better, and therefore we do not want to add to your stress. We have appointments six days per week during the day or in the evening, so you can have an appointment when you want one. We are also registered with all main insurance companies so as long you have the correct authorisation numbers then we can invoice direct to the insurance company to avoid you paying. If you need to pay but then hope to claim the payment back then we are registered with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Health Professions Council and therefore you will be able to submit our receipts and claim this payment back.