Whiplash injury remains a controversial topic being described by some as:
“An artificially contrived injury which can’t be proven, tripling the risk of future episodes of neck pain.”
For some, the symptoms of pain can be protracted, with up to 75% of those injured also complaining of dizziness.Pain, often felt in the head neck and arms, is referred from damaged structures within the cervical spine including the deep musculature. On testing the strength of neck muscles following whiplash, those muscles lying deep at the front were found to be weak and sluggish. This weakness is thought to contribute to the sensation of the neck feeling unstable as well as disturbance to eye movement control.
As physiotherapists, our role is to optimise recovery and prevent recurrence. Along side treatment focused on relieving pain and restoring movement within the damaged tissues, a programme of patient specific exercise will retrain these weakened muscles. Using pressure biofeedback units which can be loaned out to use at home, patients are able to strengthen the affected muscles. Visual disturbances can also be retrained with a specific exercise programme. Research has shown that this approach markedly decreases the risk of chronic neck pain, reduces the use of medication and helps to prevent recurrences.