How Whiplash Happens
When we think of whiplash the first thing that comes to mind is a car accident.. but it can also be the result of both contact and non-contact sports. Whiplash (also known as neck strain or sprain) is when the head is rapidly thrust backwards, and then forwards, subjecting the cervical spine to excessive force. The powerful impact commonly happens from behind (ie. footy, skiing and cycling falls, or rear ending in a car), causing the head to ‘whip’ back and forth in an abrupt motion. (Very Well Health)
Luckily, 95 percent of the time the damage is just superficial, ie. slight muscle strains and tears, with serious hyperextension injuries very rare (Massage Therapy). The injury usually typically heals within three months, with the symptoms often alleviating within just a few weeks. Symptoms often vary in intensity over the recovery period. (National Health Service, CSS Physiotherapy)
How Whiplash Can Affect You
You may feel the symptoms straight away, or delayed onset of one to three days.
- Neck pain (ranging from mild pins and needles to excruciating)
- Neck stiffness, or reduced range of motion
- Lower back pain
- Shoulder pain (often between the shoulder blades)
- Discomfort in chest and arms
- Reduced coordination
- Pain, numbness or muscle spasms in arms or extremities
- Hoarseness and difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Ringing in the ears or blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue
How to Treat Whiplash
The majority of people suffering from whiplash recover within one to three months, however a small number of cases persist long term.
Many forms of physical therapy can help a person heal more quickly by relaxing and releasing affected muscles and tissue, and generally relaxing a client’s psyche after what is often a traumatic incident.
In general, any massage that relaxes the affected muscles will help relieve the pain and discomfort of whiplash, and prevent chronic pain down the track. However, Myotherapy and Remedial Massage are particularly therapeutic:
Myotherapists use myofascial release techniques that free up restricted neck fascia and muscles, helping to restore fluidity and relieve neck stiffness. ‘Myofascial unwinding’ also unlocks dysfunctional fascial holding patterns that set in when the injury occurs. Trigger Point therapy – used by many Myotherapists, also releases myofascial trigger points in the cervical muscles, preventing prolonged muscular dysfunction down the track.
Remedial Massage therapists relax superficial muscles, then apply deep tissue work to release contracted fascia, scar tissue, and adhesions. Done with mindful care, deep tissue massage can also liberate free tissue that has tightened around nerves. Once the superficial muscles are relaxed, deep tissue work can liberate contracted deep fascia, adhesions and scar tissue. (Integrative Health Care)
Since we use our head so much during the majority of our waking life, achieving pain-free movement in the neck will be a priority for the therapist. Once the muscles have been released, the therapist will often guide the client through gentle stretches and mobilisations of the neck and shoulders.
The National Health Service in the UK recommends trying to continue with your everyday activities (within reason of course). It may hurt a little but will speed up recovery.
It’s also important to regularly exercise the muscles in your neck. Start gentle guided stretches on advice of your GP and/or physical therapist to help you heal. Check out this compilation of range of motion activities.
If you suffer from whiplash (medically known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome), it is of course important to visit your GP before any treatment to rule out any serious injury, such as concussion or nerve root compression. Then on the advice of your GP visit your physical therapist for targeted relief, and an ongoing treatment plan (including home exercises between appointments). A single appointment will most likely provide immediate relief but there is no magic bullet for chronic aches and pains. Long term improvements will happen only with ongoing therapy and an active treatment plan.
Book an appointment with a Stable therapist today on 03 8598 9804 or online.