How physios can treat whiplash caused by an accident

Hopefully, you never will or never have experienced this but, imagine this: you’ve been in a car accident, but luckily you and everyone involved seem to have walked away mostly unharmed, aside from a slightly stiff neck. A&E assess and clear you and aside from the inconvenience of having your car repaired, it seems as though this was just a bad day you will want to forget about as soon as possible…

Fast forward three weeks and you suddenly find yourself with acute pain in your right arm and a blinding headache. It might not even occur to you that it’s related to the accident from weeks ago, until you go and see a physio and they assess you and find you’re suffering from whiplash.

When you’ve been in a car accident or some other sort of accident that has caused your body trauma, it’s important to go and be professionally assessed by a physio. While A&E are capable of providing you with an adequate immediate assessment in most cases, they often don’t have the resources or capacity to follow up and check for late onset symptoms, like referred pain caused by whiplash. This is why booking an appointment with a private physio is, more often than not, going to be best for your long-term health.

Physio patient assessment following a car accident

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, swelling or stiffness, headaches or pain or muscle spasms in your shoulders and arms. As mentioned these symptoms can sometimes take hours, days or even weeks after an accident to fully develop, which can lead to patients being misdiagnosed or not adequately assessed at all once they are in pain or discomfort.

However, there are far more less common of symptoms that are not always recognised as being caused by whiplash, including:

  • dizziness or vertigo
  • weakness
  • pins and needles, numbness or pain in the arms and hands
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulties swallowing
  • blurred vision
  • ringing in your ears

Whiplash symptoms normally only last for a few weeks maximum when properly treated, however if they aren’t treated to a satisfactory level there is a risk of long-term neck injuries, limited movement or pain in your arms. This is just one of the reasons why seeking physio treatment after an accident is advised.

Physio patient undergoing whiplash assessment

How does a physio treat whiplash?

As mentioned, one of the main benefits of being treated by a physio after an accident is ensuring you get correctly assessed and receive an accurate diagnosis. In the event your initial post-accident assessment is complete and your physio determines you are suffering from whiplash, there are a number of different treatment options available to you. How many physio sessions are required to treat your whiplash will completely depend on the severity of the injury and how long you wait to get treatment.

At Spectrum, we refer to our style of physio as a 360° approach, meaning there is no time limit on your session, it may include multiple treatment methods and you might even see more than one therapist throughout your appointment. Every single patient will have a personalised treatment plan, created by us based on your unique injury, choices and lifestyle to help fast-track your recovery.

Some of the types of physio treatment you might expect to be given at Spectrum for whiplash include:

Manual therapy

Manual therapy or soft tissue therapy is one of the most common treatments for whiplash. It can help to manage, manipulate and rehabilitate soft tissues like muscles, tendons and ligaments in your neck, shoulders and back that are injured in an accident. Manual therapy, as the name suggests involves hands-on techniques to manage pain, swelling, and stiffness using a range of clinically proven massage techniques.

You can read more about manual therapy on our treatments page.

Dry needling

Dry needling is a great way to release tension or unblock muscles that may need to be treated at a deeper level than can be reached using manual therapy. Your physio will insert very thin needles into particular trigger points in your muscles causing your body to simultaneously produce pain-relieving chemicals that flush your system, while relaxing your muscle fibers to relieve tension. In the case of an injury like whiplash, this can help speed up the healing process by loosening you up faster.

You can read more about dry needling in physiotherapy on our treatments page.

McKenzie method

McKenzie is a system of analysed repeated movements, that can be used to relieve pain or improve mobility that has been caused by a musculoskeletal injury or condition like whiplash. One of Spectrum’s lead physios, Ant Brightwell, is one of a very few McKenzie credentialed therapists in London, so he will often prescribe McKenzie as part of a treatment plan for whiplash.

You can read more about McKenzie therapy in a recent blog article.

Are you suffering from an injury or pain that has an unknown origin? There’s a chance it could have been caused by a past accident, even if you didn’t realise it at the time.

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