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Recovery from Whiplash

In the Ireland, whiplash injuries accounts for almost 76% of bodily injuries reported to insurance companies. Though not fatal, the pain coupled with the complications causes significant changes in the quality of life of a person.

Some 20% or one out of five continues to suffer symptoms a year after the accident. Records state that only 11% of patients are able to go back working after a year and only a third of them fully recover their previous state of functioning.

Whiplash Explained

The sudden impact from a rear-end collision or head banging can cause serious damages in the tendons and ligaments in the neck. It is called “whiplash” because the head jerks backward and then forward. Upon visualization, the neck appears to be in “S-shape”. The lower part is in a kyphosis (hunchback) and the one closest to the head bends forward (lordosis).

Rear-end collision is the major culprit for this debilitating injury. However, it can also happen through activities that cause sudden movement of the head such as bungee jumping, diving and even riding rollercoasters. The jolt causes the ligaments in the neck to become overstretched causing a myriad of symptoms such as pain and stiffness in the “shneck” (shoulder and neck) and radiates to the back and upper extremities. The pain, if not addressed immediately, may become chronic and cause other complications called whiplash-associated disorders (WAD). Wad includes stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, drug dependence, and other conditions.

Treatment Modes

  1. Pain Management — since pain is the main deterrent to resuming activities, controlling or completely addressing pain felt by patients is the main goal of management. The treatment regimen includes non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic methods.
    • Ice packs or compress can be applied over the affected area within 24 hours after the injury. This limits inflammation in the area and numbing effect which helps control pain. Afterwards, a hot compress should be applied to help lessen the swelling of the area. Heat also causes relaxation of the strained muscles in the ”shneck.”
    • Medications are also commonly prescribed to address the debilitating pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and non-narcotic pain relievers are given, but the dosage and frequency should be limited to 3 times a week only. This is to prevent drug dependence which will pose a bigger problem in the future.
  2. Physical Therapy — this includes massage, range of motion exercises and postural modifications. Exercise should be done at three to five times in a day. Start from the movements that are most comfortable to the patient, and then gradually increase the difficulty and duration of the exercise. The head and neck exercise include head rotation and moving them sideways. Flexion and extension of the shoulders should also be practiced by moving the arms up and down. Early mobilization helps prevent chronic pain and fast return of normal functioning of the affected body structures.


Cervical collars were believed to help alleviate pain felt by whiplash patients. This finding has been refuted as of late. Researchers found out that the longer the neck stays immobile, there greater chances of causing stiffness to the neck and shoulder area. More so, the collar should only be used right after injury and not more than 72 hour. Patients are encouraged to perform neck exercises as early as possible.

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