Whiplash is often thought of only being related to car accidents and only being a neck injury. In reality it is the whole body that is affected, and can be caused by any number of things. Car accidents, sports injuries, falls, anything that generates enough force through the body to damage the tissues at the base of the neck. Whiplash symptoms include pain and stiffness in the neck, headaches and sometimes pain and other nerve-type symptoms like pins and needles into the arms. Mental changes such as fuzziness, poor concentration, depression and an inability to concentrate can also occur.
It is the violent over-bending of the neck, especially the lower neck where it meets the mid-back, that causes the tissue injury. Sometimes you might not initially be aware of the injury. It is quite common not to feel anything for a day or so after the accident, only for tightness and pain to build.
In the case of, say, being in a car that is hit from behind, the forces are such that the car seat hits you in the back and pelvis. This throws your body forwards, flipping your head backwards. You then come into contact with the safety belt, which stops you moving any further forwards – but now our head flips forwards. It is this back and forth movement of the head and neck that causes the tissue injury. If you had a head-on collision it would be the reverse of this.
Osteopaths are well placed to treat whiplash because of our whole-body approach. We evaluate the mechanics of the whole person, looking at more than just the neck. Treating the pelvis and low back are crucial to helping people recover as quickly as possible. Osteopathy is proven to be able to help treat whiplash – thought every case is different. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss anything then please do ask.