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What is a whiplash?

Whiplash associated disorders (WAD) is a general term which encompasses injuries sustained as a sudden acceleration-deceleration movement. These can be sustained as a result of a sporting incident or more commonly during motor vehicle accidents. Symptoms are highly varied in this injury presentation and may not always correlate with imaging done hence careful assessment done by our Physiotherapists will ensure a better outcome for you.

How do I know if I have a whiplash associated disorder?

Signs and symptoms of a mallet finger injury may include:

  • History of an incident involving sudden acceleration-deceleration of the head
  • Pain or stiffness in the neck and surrounding muscles
  • Nerve type pain – electrical shocks, sharp shooting pain down the arm
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Increased/decreased skin sensitivity to stimuli

How is whiplash associated disorder diagnosed and managed?

It is usually diagnosed through history taking and with any associated history of trauma which involves a sudden acceleration-deceleration of the head on the neck will be classified as having a whiplash associated disorder. Depending on the severity of the condition, your specialist might order scans to rule out any other structural abnormalities before deciding on the course of treatment. Almost all cases without any severe structural damages or instability are treated conservatively.

How can Physiotherapy help?

As the presentation for whiplash associated disorders varies greatly and imaging not being the most useful, the Physiotherapist will conduct a thorough examination of the neck region. This would normally include a neurological exam of your upper limbs, a check on the range of motion of your neck as well as the strength and flexibility of the surrounding muscles.

Treatment may include but is not limited to:

  • Advise and education pertaining to your condition
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Movement re-education
  • Personalised home exercise program
  • Heat therapy
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Manual traction
  • Electrotherapy
  • Ultrasound therapy

What happens if I let my whiplash injury go untreated?

Depending on the symptoms and severity, untreated whiplash injuries can be quite debilitating and become chronic. It can bring about pain, neurological deficits, headaches and movement impairments which can significantly impact an individual’s lifestyle.If you suspect you have a whiplash injury, definitely see a medical Doctor or Physiotherapist to see how we can assist you through the recovery process and ensure that your symptoms will not become chronic.

What should I do in the early phase if I suspect I have a whiplash injury?

The best would be to consult a medical specialist who would carry out a physical examination of your cervical spine and order some scans to determine the extent of injury. The specialist will then decide what the best course of treatment will be for you and in most cases, this would include some medications and a course of Physiotherapy treatment.

Can symptoms of whiplash associated disorders be delayed?

Yes they can be, initially the inflammatory response around the injured region might be at lower levels at the time of injury. As it starts to build up, symptoms such as pain and stiffness start to surface and this can happen a few hours or even days after the incident has occured. Hence, should mild symptoms start to surface or if you suspect that you’ve had a whiplash injury, always consult a medical Doctor or Physiotherapist who will be able to treat you appropriately.