Whiplash is a general term used to describe sudden, uncontrolled distrtions (usually extension) to the neck/upper back where ligaments, joints and muscles (and potentially bones and nerves) are damaged. Most often people experience it during a motor vehicle accident (MVA). This type of trauma most often occurs at slow speeds though higher speeds can obviously cause greater damage.
The Québec Task Force (QTF) has divided whiplash-associated disorders into five grades:
- Grade 0: no neck pain, stiffness, or any physical signs are noticed
- Grade 1: neck complaints of pain, stiffness or tenderness only but no physical signs are noted by the examining physician.
- Grade 2: neck complaints and the examining physician finds decreased range of motion and point tenderness in the neck.
- Grade 3: neck complaints plus neurological signs such as decreased deep tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits.
- Grade 4: neck complaints and fracture or dislocation, or injury to the spinal cord.
It is important that rehabilitation for this conditions occurs promptly as early management has shown improved long term outcomes. Early mobilisation with gentle neck and shoulder range of movement 3-5x/day within tolerance and relative rest is shown to be more effective than a soft collar. These exercises include gentle neck rotations, retractions and shoulder raises. If the whiplash has produced a chronic neck/upper back dysfunction a tailored approach involving specific deep neck stabiliser exercises, spine manipulation, soft tissue work and education is involved. Dubbo Chiropractor Dr Edin Hoogesteger is experienced in assisting people to manage these conditions.