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What You Should Do During and After Whiplash: Treatments and Guidelines

Admini Si - Thursday, September 28, 2017
whiplash injury after car accident

Whiplash and “Whiplash Associated Disorders” (WADs) are the single most frequently recorded CTP (compulsory third party) injuries. 



What is the definition of Whiplash?


Whiplash is defined by the Quebec Task Force as an “…acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck…It may result from…motor vehicle collisions… The impact may result in bony or soft tissue injuries (whiplash injury), which in turn may lead to a variety of clinical manifestations (whiplash associated disorders)


Apart from neck and spinal pain Whiplash Associated Disorders include headache, dizziness, tinnitus, memory loss, dysphagia and temporomandibular (TMJ or jaw) pain.



What to do if you have Whiplash:


You should follow your insurer’s guidelines about making a CTP claim.


If you have had a car or other accident and have acute neck pain or other symptoms as a result, you should consult your doctor. At this appointment you will be assessed and a decision will be made as to whether an x-ray is necessary. If an x-ray is necessary and there is a stable bony injury found, you may need to be immobilized in a rigid collar for approximately six weeks. 


rigid collar

Rarely, if there is a dislocation or unstable fracture, surgery may be required.



Treatment of Whiplash:


If x-ray and immobilization is not necessary, you will likely be referred for physiotherapy. After a thorough assessment you will be given gentle exercises to do quite early on, to improve your neck movement and strength. You will be given advice relating to your work, sport and other activities. You will likely be given hands-on treatment including gentle manual therapy, and possibly ultrasound, dry needling, taping and ice or heat. Your therapist should not perform forceful manipulation on your neck after any acute injury.


You will require fairly regular reviews at first, and as you improve these will reduce in frequency as you do more and more for yourself. Although the pain can be quite intense and you can feel quite fearful initially, most people slowly make a full or almost full recovery. In 40% of cases at 12 weeks, there should be complete resolution of symptoms. In more severe cases, symptoms are mostly resolved within a year, and people return to previous sport, work and daily activities.



The Most Important Guideline


walking a dog

The most important guideline made by the MAA is to stay active, keep moving as normally as possible and return to usual activities. Immobilization in a collar, prescription of muscle relaxants and steroid injections are not recommended in the most recent guidelines about the management of WAD. The use of anti-inflammatories and simple analgesics is recommended for pain.



Who can help?

Macquarie Street Physiotherapy

At Macquarie Street Physiotherapy we have assisted many patients with Whiplash and WAD.  Whether the injury is acute (just happened) or if you have stiffness or symptoms months or years later, we can assist with safe and appropriate treatment, exercises and education.




Reference: Motor Accidents Authority: Guidelines for the management of acute whiplash-associated disorders – for health professionals.  Sydney: third edition 2014



Macquarie Street Physio