Whiplash Associated Disorder

woman with neck pain also known as whiplash associated disorder

Whiplash associated disorder (WAD) is a common injury following traumatic events like a car accident. Although they are relatively well understood as to their mechanism, their effect on the person can vary from person to person, even within the same car.

How can physiotherapy help with whiplash?

To help you after a car accident or other traumatic event resulting in a whip lash, we as physiotherapists may manage your whiplash by using a variety of techniques, including exercises from range of motion through to strength, education around the condition, as time progresses manual therapy may be used as an adjunct, however, should only contribute a small amount to treatment. Research shows, progressive exercise and education have been the two most effective treatments for WAD. Other modalities that can be used to assist in your recovery may be ice, or heat, depending on your stage of recovery, and taping or bracing, may be used if the injury is bad enough to warrant the use of external support. However, research has also shown that the use of an external neck brace should be used only in the most severe of cases, or it could be made worse.

Treatment for whiplash

Research has shown that the majority of people who experience whiplash recover within a few weeks to a few months. However, some individuals may experience persistent symptoms, such as neck pain, headaches, and fatigue. The long-term outcomes of whiplash can vary and are not always predictable.
Another approach that can be taken is Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). As it may also be useful in managing WAD as it can help to reduce pain and improve function, quality of life and work capacity in patients with WAD, through more of a graded exposure approach.

In some cases, the use of medication, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants, may be necessary to manage pain. However, this should only be in the short term, acutely after the injury and be managed by your doctor.

It’s important to note that not all research studies agree on the best approach for managing whiplash and further research is needed to determine the most effective treatment methods for individuals with persistent symptoms. Which is why, we will endeavor to develop an individualized treatment plan for you, based on the specific symptoms you’re experiencing and the cause of your whiplash injury, monitor your progress with objective measures and modify our approach based on this.

Other whiplash concerns

Another potential injury you could be facing after your accident could be a concussion, physiotherapy can play a role in the management of concussions, which are traumatic brain injuries that can result from a blow to the head or a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head. Physiotherapists may use a variety of techniques to help individuals recover from a concussion, including, which may be similar to the ones used for WAD, or it could also include, exercises to improve balance, coordination and vestibular function.
It’s important to note that recovery from a concussion can take time, and it is important for individuals to rest and follow any recommendations from the healthcare professional.

It is also important to note that physiotherapy should not be the only treatment for concussion, and that a multidisciplinary approach including medical evaluation by a physician or neuropsychologist is recommended.

It’s also important to note that after a traumatic incident such as a car accident, there could be underlying psychological symptoms, and you should seek counselling if you’re experiencing anxiety around returning to the activity in which you received the injury.

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