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Whiplash

October 17, 2017

Whiplash is an injury caused by a rapid forceful back and forth movement of the neck. Symptoms include neck pain, headaches, muscle pain and tightness, limited range of movement of the neck and sometimes pain, tingling or numbness in the arm. Whiplash most commonly occurs in car accidents but it may also resort from certain sporting injuries or other trauma.

It is important to consult a doctor if you have been involved in a traumatic whiplash injury as you may be advised to get an X-Ray to rule out any other injuries such as fractures of the spine. If there are no other serious injuries, whiplash is a very straight forward condition to treat.

It is important to be reassured that most whiplash symptoms resolve quite quickly. In most cases physiotherapy can be hugely beneficial. Evidence is leaning towards an active recovery rather than immobilisation. However, in the early painful stages, immobilising the neck in a soft collar may be recommended. Other physiotherapy treatments might involve soft tissue therapy, range of movement exercises, ice/heat, taping, stretching and strengthening exercises.

Controversially, many in the media are commenting on how this is potentially a ‘non-existent’ condition fuelled by ‘compensation culture’. It is true that whiplash claims from car accidents are one of the most common claims in Ireland with the average award being about €15,000. However, it is not black and white to say that the condition does not exist. Having treated many patients over the years with whiplash I can tell you the pain is real. However, as I tell my patients, most of this is an acute soft tissue injury, no worse than if you ‘pull’ a muscle in your leg or back. It will recover.

Sometimes biopsychological factors can play a place – like the fear of a ‘serious’ injury like whiplash, causing increased sensations of pain. Sometimes the emotional trauma of being in a car accident can play a part. And sometimes the pain just hurts because it hurts! It’s time to take our patients seriously and listen to their complaints. At the same time, we need to not exasperate or exaggerate or put fear into our patients and fuel the compensation culture.

For a non-judgemental assessment and treatment consultation for your whiplash, contact one of our physiotherapists at 01 441 0100.

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