Apr 2015 25

Whiplash

By: Dave Wheeler

During the last week a client came to see me on return from a business trip to China.

She'd collapsed after getting out of a taxi at her hotel, with a blinding headache, vomiting and was unable to move her neck.

After a couple of trips to hospital in both China and the UK where she MRI's and CT scans, the diagnosis was some muscular problem.

It turns out that, on further questioning,  she'd had an accident whilst in another taxi a couple of days beforehand on the motorway. She'd got whiplash

 

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is caused when the head whips forwards and backwards quickly, like a whip.

It's often associated with car accident impacts, though can arise from contact sports as well.

The high speed acceleration and deceleration are more than the soft tissues in the neck can deal with and damage results.

Often the ligaments around the joints of the cervical spine (in the neck) become sprained.

Similarly the many muscles in the neck can become strained.

Often, since the neck has been subject to such violent force, the central nervous system kicks in at the moment of impact to try to protect the neck joints from any further damage by putting the muscles into spasm, effectively splinting the neck, so as to avoid further movement and damage.

 

pic by graur razvan ionut @ freedigitalphotos.net

 

Until even quite recently, the standard treatment for whiplash was to wear a collar to support the neck and persuade the central nervous system to allow the muscles to come out of spasm.

A major international study in 1995, though, found that this wasn't particularly effective.

 

Treating whiplash

The most recent advice is to keep the muscles of the neck mobile from as early as possible from the onset of whiplash.

Whilst the neck might need to be rested for 24 hours in severe cases, gentle (in some cases very gentle) movement of the head will free up the muscles over time.

So collars are no longer usually recommended.

The aims of treatment (whether self-help, physiotherapy, osteopathy or remedial massage treatment) are to soften the muscle tissue and increase range of movement of the neck.

Although movement of the neck might be painful, at least at first, keeping it mobile as soon as possible (or at least within 24 hours of the onset of the symptoms) is really important.

Resting the neck is likely to prolong the recovery time - the muscles need gently to get back to normal.

As ever, if you think I can help, give me a call.