What is Whiplash?

Whiplash‘Whiplash’ is neck pain that is typically the result of a car accident.

Less often it can occur during a substantial fall, parachuting, hang-gliding, bungy jumping or boating accidents.

How Whiplash Occurs

Whiplash occurs when the forward thrust of the head is followed by an excessive backward over-extension of the neck. This action can damage structures in the neck and upper-thoracic spine, including vertebral discs, muscles, ligaments and bones, although damage to bones occurs far less frequently.

‘Whiplash’ can occur in a car accident even when a seatbelt is worn. Symptoms may not appear until several days after the accident and usually include:

  • stiffness
  • soreness in the shoulders
  • headaches
  • neck pain

Not all car accidents result in whiplash injuries: about one-third of all people involved in car accidents have no symptoms, another third develop some symptoms and the final third develop more severe symptoms that are harder to settle.

Products Stocked for Whiplash by Gordon Physiotherapy Sports and Spinal

  • McKenzie Neck Rolls
  • Contour Pillows
  • Soft Collars

Note: Whiplash, neck or back injuries sustained in a Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) must be seen by a doctor prior to obtaining physiotherapy in order for treatment to be covered by Third Party Insurance.

What to do after a car accident

If you have been in a car accident, it is best to:

  • keep moving gently
  • change position regularly
  • ensure you rest more
  • use only a well-supported chair, not a soft lounge, when sitting
  • walk gently and avoid any jogging or gym sessions for at least a few days after the accident, whether you have pain or not
  • avoid any jogging or gym sessions until any soreness settles completely
  • avoid prolonged neck flexion as when reading a book, using a laptop or sitting for a long period at the computer
  • minimise long and repetitive work with your arms e.g. gardening or scrubbing floors or the bath, as these activities will increase tension in the shoulder muscles
  • avoid heavy work such as lifting and gardening for a minimum of a week or until all symptoms have settled completely
  • apply heat to your upper shoulders if you feel tension in this area
  • use regular pain relief  if any pain is experienced
  • see your doctor to obtain a physio referral to see us, if you have stiffness, soreness in the shoulders, headaches or neck pain that either continues to increase or does not ease completely within 36 hours
  • see your doctor immediately if the symptoms are severe and are not eased by the simple measures mentioned above; your doctor will organise scans or X-rays and a referral for physio treatment
  • go immediately to a hospital Accident and Emergency Department if you develop severe headaches, nausea, dizziness or poor balance.