Whiplash injury results from a sprain of the neck following a sudden movement of the head.
The most likely cause of pain is a strain of the small joints of the neck - the facet joint. Whiplash will improve over weeks and months – it is not uncommon for the recovery to take months - but for some people it may limit their working life and activities.
What are the symptoms?
- Pain and stiffness in the head, neck and upper back
- Feeling more ‘jumpy’, stressed and ‘irritable’
How is whiplash managed?
Keeping your neck mobile and continuing with your daily activities is recommended. Neck collars or braces are not recommended. Getting adequate pain relief with simple pain killers is very important in the early stages as this will allow you to move around more freely.
Keep an eye on your stress levels as there is some evidence that they play a part in recovery form whiplash. Practicising relaxation daily (using apps such as Calm from the App store or the Headspace app) or taking regular exercise may be helpful. Talk to your GP or physiotherapist about resources that can help you manage stress.
Optimising your recovery from whiplash
If you are not seeing any recovery four to six weeks after your injury then it is important to consider if how you feel about the trauma is preventing your recovery.
Some people experience a strong stress reaction to the trauma with symptoms such as nightmares, intrusive thoughts about the trauma and finding themselves more irritable and quick to temper than is usual for them. If this is the case talk to your GP or physiotherapist about psychological support that may help.