Whiplash associated disorder usually occurs following a road traffic accident, fall or contact sport injury. Whiplash associated disorder relates to injury to the bone, surrounding soft tissues and/or the nervous system which vary depending on the force and direction of the impact or collision.
The mechanism of whiplash is an acceleration-deceleration movement where the initial impact sends the body forwards leaving the head and neck behind causing hyperextension of the neck. The muscles in the front of the neck are stretched which stimulates the stretch reflex mechanism causing the neck to forcefully move into hyperflexion. Due to the mechanism of injury associated with whiplash a range of structures could be affected therefore each individual experience of whiplash can be different however the common symptoms associated with whiplash include;
- Neck pain
- Pins and needles in the hand
- Reduced range of movement in the neck
- Muscular tenderness around neck and shoulders
Although whiplash can feel traumatic there a range of treatment modalities available to promote recovery and ensure you return to full functioning as soon as possible.
There are a number of techniques you yourself can perform to promote recovery following whiplash which include:
- Early mobilisation
- Return to usual activities as soon as capable
- Do not use soft collars or other immobilisation devices
The main thing to remember is keep moving! Try to avoid complete bed rest or immobilising your neck as this can often lead to increased stiffness and pain.
Massage therapy alongside other manuel therapy techniques can be extremely beneficial in whiplash associated disorder and can help to:
- Reduce pain
- Improve range of movement
- Reduce muscular tightness
- Improve mobility
Massage therapy can be applied to the anterior or posterior neck and shoulder muscles which may have been affected by the collision. The application of massage therapy can reduce the stiffness felt following whiplash by increasing blood circulation and tissue temperature and promoting collagen fibre alignment. The effects of massage therapy can be complimented using joint mobilisations which help to improve the nutrition within the joint, promote collagen fibre alignment in surrounding soft tissue structures and reduce pain.