Sources of Whiplash Pain

First thing I will say that eventhough there is usually a variety of factors that contribue to whiplash pain (such as the cervical spine ie your neck undergoing the whiplash itself), these should be assessed and treated by your physiotherapist.

Physiotherapists do not “just treat” whiplash, but they consider multiple perspectives that need to be treated as well including

  • muscle injury and dysfunction
  • joint injury and dysfunction
  • disc injury
  • overcompensation movement patterns
  • etc

It’s not just that treat A-B-C and it’s done – there’s a lot more holistic treatments to do to get you up and running and preventing the recurrence of whiplash-related pains and aches.

Whiplash joint dysfunction and pain management

So when a whiplash happens, it can cause the joints in your spine (your neck, typically) and other limbs to be affected. This leads to what we call a joint dysfuntion.

During clinical assessment which includes palpation, soft tissue touch and movement observation, the physiotherapist will pick up on

  • movement pattern quality
  • pain restrictions or pain-related compensatory patterns
  • nerve restrictions
  • joint limitation

These can present with difficulty to do specific movements and physical activities as the pain, soreness and weakness (and other nerve-related issues) build up.

Some patients may also experience

  • other nearby structures starting to hurt more-and-more
  • muscles immediately and nearby starting to stiffen up and becoming harder to move
  • more “bad days” where the pain flares up due to factors

Muscle dysfunction and whiplash injuries

It’s almost a certainty that when joint dysfunction happens after whiplash, next the muscles would be affected too.

In some cases, the patient’s muscles become unusually overactive such as tensing again and again, or remaining tense, and this causes a lot of muscles-overfiring issues such as over-tightening of the immediate muscles forming painful trigger points. The other spectrum is some cases the muscles are not used as much (or at all) ie the muscle goes passive. This causes over-compensation by other supporting structures.

Trigger points are very tight points in the muscles which can be caused by a variety of reasons be it

  • overuse
  • underuse
  • poor posture
  • sports
  • medical conditions

Trigger points can irritate the nerve endings in the affected muscles and cause localized pain or even have pain that can travel! This is called radiating pain. Pain can be mild, like an ache, but it can be terrible enough to cause migraine-like intensive headaches too.

With regards to whiplash-related trigger point pain, it’s a doubling-up of pain; because whiplash itself already presents with pain (primary), and the development of additional pain and pain-points are called secondary development, and both can be experienced at the same time.

To make things worse, patients in pain will naturally take a posture to prevent the pain, and this pain posture can gradually become more and more unnatural, which in turn, causes more pain later. An example is slouching back to prevent a specific pain now can develop to a pain in the neck due to the compensatory posture.

Whiplash >> Poor movement patterns

Truth of the matter is that many people suffer from chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury or incident.

An experienced physiotherapists will assess and treat you, and in the assessments most of us will be able to scan and screen those who are more at risk to developing chronic neck pain, and pre-emptively place chronic pain management in your physio program.

It may be that you may need to come in a little longer to make sure that you’re on the right track such as

  • pain is managed
  • soft tissues arent misfiring or compensating
  • anything unusual isnt popping up
  • avoiding activities or postural issues
  • etc

Physio approach to whiplash pain and injury

Generally when you choose a physiotherapist for whiplash management, as well as to prevent or treat chronic whiplash pain, what you need to consider is:

  1. The experience and expertise of the physiotherapist. They need to have experience in successfully treating whiplash and whiplash-related chronic pain (or other body part pains such as back pain or shoulder pains etc).
  2. There is an emphasis towards progressive outcomes within specific timeframes, such as
    • return to work
    • return to home / responsibilities
    • return to sports
  3. Helps teach you a home exercise program between sessions

Truth of the matter is that many people suffer from chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury or incident.

An experienced physiotherapists will assess and treat you, and in the assessments most of us will be able to scan and screen those who are more at risk to developing chronic neck pain, and pre-emptively place chronic pain management in your physio program.

It may be that you may need to come in a little longer to make sure that you’re on the right track such as

  • pain is managed
  • soft tissues arent misfiring or compensating
  • anything unusual isnt popping up
  • avoiding activities or postural issues
  • etc

Physio approach to whiplash pain and injury

Generally when you choose a physiotherapist for whiplash management, as well as to prevent or treat chronic whiplash pain, what you need to consider is:

  1. The experience and expertise of the physiotherapist. They need to have experience in successfully treating whiplash and whiplash-related chronic pain (or other body part pains such as back pain or shoulder pains etc).
  2. There is an emphasis towards progressive outcomes within specific timeframes, such as
    • return to work
    • return to home / responsibilities
    • return to sports
  3. Helps teach you a home exercise program between sessions

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to physio treatments for whiplash, and the reason for this is:

  • every whiplash incident is different: based on speed, angle, direction
  • every patient is different and responds different to pain, injuries, treatment

That’s why, as cliche as it sounds, every physiotherapy treatment will be unique to each patient. The goal that we take is

  • bring pain back to zero or as low as possible
  • bring movement (without pain of course) to as high as possible

We do this through a number of approaches and techniques including

  • Soft tissue management to the muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons – all the soft tissues that are involved. We may mobilize them, move them, and in some cases where appropriate, manipulate them too.
  • Exercise therapy to normalize movement patterns and improve on sensory feedback as well as strength
  • Ultrasound therapy accelerates soft tissue healing
  • Balance re-training will help your body adapt and respond well to different everyday forces to prevent reinjuries or pain flare-ups
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes are what we guide to make your work and home more suitable for you based on pain, injury, height, lighting etc
  • Sports-specific therapy for those who wants to return to sports. Every sport is different so we need to train specific to the sports eg badminton is different to swimming to rugby etc. The needs and muscle movements are vastly different.
  • Deep tissue release may be useful when the structures are overly tight (most of us who sit for long do have very tight muscles) to prevent muscle tears and injuries
  • hot and cold therapies
  • etc

We may refer you out too

In some cases, we may refer you to specialists who can help you as well, such as

  • sports doctors
  • orthopedic surgeons
  • pain doctors
  • etc

Key: preventing (or minimizing) whiplash-related chronic pain

Truth of the matter is that many people suffer from chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury or incident.

An experienced physiotherapists will assess and treat you, and in the assessments most of us will be able to scan and screen those who are more at risk to developing chronic neck pain, and pre-emptively place chronic pain management in your physio program.

It may be that you may need to come in a little longer to make sure that you’re on the right track such as

  • pain is managed
  • soft tissues arent misfiring or compensating
  • anything unusual isnt popping up
  • avoiding activities or postural issues
  • etc

Physio approach to whiplash pain and injury

Generally when you choose a physiotherapist for whiplash management, as well as to prevent or treat chronic whiplash pain, what you need to consider is:

  1. The experience and expertise of the physiotherapist. They need to have experience in successfully treating whiplash and whiplash-related chronic pain (or other body part pains such as back pain or shoulder pains etc).
  2. There is an emphasis towards progressive outcomes within specific timeframes, such as
    • return to work
    • return to home / responsibilities
    • return to sports
  3. Helps teach you a home exercise program between sessions

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to physio treatments for whiplash, and the reason for this is:

  • every whiplash incident is different: based on speed, angle, direction
  • every patient is different and responds different to pain, injuries, treatment

That’s why, as cliche as it sounds, every physiotherapy treatment will be unique to each patient. The goal that we take is

  • bring pain back to zero or as low as possible
  • bring movement (without pain of course) to as high as possible

We do this through a number of approaches and techniques including

  • Soft tissue management to the muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons – all the soft tissues that are involved. We may mobilize them, move them, and in some cases where appropriate, manipulate them too.
  • Exercise therapy to normalize movement patterns and improve on sensory feedback as well as strength
  • Ultrasound therapy accelerates soft tissue healing
  • Balance re-training will help your body adapt and respond well to different everyday forces to prevent reinjuries or pain flare-ups
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes are what we guide to make your work and home more suitable for you based on pain, injury, height, lighting etc
  • Sports-specific therapy for those who wants to return to sports. Every sport is different so we need to train specific to the sports eg badminton is different to swimming to rugby etc. The needs and muscle movements are vastly different.
  • Deep tissue release may be useful when the structures are overly tight (most of us who sit for long do have very tight muscles) to prevent muscle tears and injuries
  • hot and cold therapies
  • etc

We may refer you out too

In some cases, we may refer you to specialists who can help you as well, such as

  • sports doctors
  • orthopedic surgeons
  • pain doctors
  • etc

Key: preventing (or minimizing) whiplash-related chronic pain

Truth of the matter is that many people suffer from chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury or incident.

An experienced physiotherapists will assess and treat you, and in the assessments most of us will be able to scan and screen those who are more at risk to developing chronic neck pain, and pre-emptively place chronic pain management in your physio program.

It may be that you may need to come in a little longer to make sure that you’re on the right track such as

  • pain is managed
  • soft tissues arent misfiring or compensating
  • anything unusual isnt popping up
  • avoiding activities or postural issues
  • etc

Physio approach to whiplash pain and injury

Generally when you choose a physiotherapist for whiplash management, as well as to prevent or treat chronic whiplash pain, what you need to consider is:

  1. The experience and expertise of the physiotherapist. They need to have experience in successfully treating whiplash and whiplash-related chronic pain (or other body part pains such as back pain or shoulder pains etc).
  2. There is an emphasis towards progressive outcomes within specific timeframes, such as
    • return to work
    • return to home / responsibilities
    • return to sports
  3. Helps teach you a home exercise program between sessions

Depending on how severe the accident that caused the whiplash is (1) and that leads to how much pain experienced (2), that can disrupt normal, smooth-flowing movement into unnatural movement patterns simply because of pain and the extent of damage. If the patient develops unstability, that’s another layer that contributes to poor movement patterns too.

Generally there are two types of whiplash-related instabilities:

  • Soft tissue related eg ligament or joint itself is mechanically more unstable. This leads to mechanical failures and pain.
  • Balancing related instability, which is known as dynamic instability. This refers to how you body naturally corrects and responds to everyday movements. When this is impaired, it will cause more risk of reinjuries and pain too.

These two instabilities will definitely impact the way you move and do things.

Can you get whiplash pain from a slipped disc?

Slipped disc is a local term that some patients use, and the medical community called it a herniated disc. Between our neck bones are “bouncy” disc filled with gelatinous substance, and sometimes tears can happen and the gelatinous substance can “spill out”, pressing onto nearby nerve endings

This will lead to nerve irritations and nerve-like issues such as

  • tingling, numbness
  • weakness

In some cases, whiplash injuries can also present similar symptoms as herniated disc, because the accidents can cause herniated disc. Sometimes, the disc doesnt get herniated but the force can be strong enough to irritate the nerve endings to make it similar to a herniated disc.

That’s why there is a need to test accurately and in-depth to make sure we treat the right thing. The higher the accuracy, the better the outcome.

Physio Treatments for Whiplash

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to physio treatments for whiplash, and the reason for this is:

  • every whiplash incident is different: based on speed, angle, direction
  • every patient is different and responds different to pain, injuries, treatment

That’s why, as cliche as it sounds, every physiotherapy treatment will be unique to each patient. The goal that we take is

  • bring pain back to zero or as low as possible
  • bring movement (without pain of course) to as high as possible

We do this through a number of approaches and techniques including

  • Soft tissue management to the muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons – all the soft tissues that are involved. We may mobilize them, move them, and in some cases where appropriate, manipulate them too.
  • Exercise therapy to normalize movement patterns and improve on sensory feedback as well as strength
  • Ultrasound therapy accelerates soft tissue healing
  • Balance re-training will help your body adapt and respond well to different everyday forces to prevent reinjuries or pain flare-ups
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes are what we guide to make your work and home more suitable for you based on pain, injury, height, lighting etc
  • Sports-specific therapy for those who wants to return to sports. Every sport is different so we need to train specific to the sports eg badminton is different to swimming to rugby etc. The needs and muscle movements are vastly different.
  • Deep tissue release may be useful when the structures are overly tight (most of us who sit for long do have very tight muscles) to prevent muscle tears and injuries
  • hot and cold therapies
  • etc

We may refer you out too

In some cases, we may refer you to specialists who can help you as well, such as

  • sports doctors
  • orthopedic surgeons
  • pain doctors
  • etc

Key: preventing (or minimizing) whiplash-related chronic pain

Truth of the matter is that many people suffer from chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury or incident.

An experienced physiotherapists will assess and treat you, and in the assessments most of us will be able to scan and screen those who are more at risk to developing chronic neck pain, and pre-emptively place chronic pain management in your physio program.

It may be that you may need to come in a little longer to make sure that you’re on the right track such as

  • pain is managed
  • soft tissues arent misfiring or compensating
  • anything unusual isnt popping up
  • avoiding activities or postural issues
  • etc

Physio approach to whiplash pain and injury

Generally when you choose a physiotherapist for whiplash management, as well as to prevent or treat chronic whiplash pain, what you need to consider is:

  1. The experience and expertise of the physiotherapist. They need to have experience in successfully treating whiplash and whiplash-related chronic pain (or other body part pains such as back pain or shoulder pains etc).
  2. There is an emphasis towards progressive outcomes within specific timeframes, such as
    • return to work
    • return to home / responsibilities
    • return to sports
  3. Helps teach you a home exercise program between sessions

Depending on how severe the accident that caused the whiplash is (1) and that leads to how much pain experienced (2), that can disrupt normal, smooth-flowing movement into unnatural movement patterns simply because of pain and the extent of damage. If the patient develops unstability, that’s another layer that contributes to poor movement patterns too.

Generally there are two types of whiplash-related instabilities:

  • Soft tissue related eg ligament or joint itself is mechanically more unstable. This leads to mechanical failures and pain.
  • Balancing related instability, which is known as dynamic instability. This refers to how you body naturally corrects and responds to everyday movements. When this is impaired, it will cause more risk of reinjuries and pain too.

These two instabilities will definitely impact the way you move and do things.

Can you get whiplash pain from a slipped disc?

Slipped disc is a local term that some patients use, and the medical community called it a herniated disc. Between our neck bones are “bouncy” disc filled with gelatinous substance, and sometimes tears can happen and the gelatinous substance can “spill out”, pressing onto nearby nerve endings

This will lead to nerve irritations and nerve-like issues such as

  • tingling, numbness
  • weakness

In some cases, whiplash injuries can also present similar symptoms as herniated disc, because the accidents can cause herniated disc. Sometimes, the disc doesnt get herniated but the force can be strong enough to irritate the nerve endings to make it similar to a herniated disc.

That’s why there is a need to test accurately and in-depth to make sure we treat the right thing. The higher the accuracy, the better the outcome.

Physio Treatments for Whiplash

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to physio treatments for whiplash, and the reason for this is:

  • every whiplash incident is different: based on speed, angle, direction
  • every patient is different and responds different to pain, injuries, treatment

That’s why, as cliche as it sounds, every physiotherapy treatment will be unique to each patient. The goal that we take is

  • bring pain back to zero or as low as possible
  • bring movement (without pain of course) to as high as possible

We do this through a number of approaches and techniques including

  • Soft tissue management to the muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons – all the soft tissues that are involved. We may mobilize them, move them, and in some cases where appropriate, manipulate them too.
  • Exercise therapy to normalize movement patterns and improve on sensory feedback as well as strength
  • Ultrasound therapy accelerates soft tissue healing
  • Balance re-training will help your body adapt and respond well to different everyday forces to prevent reinjuries or pain flare-ups
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes are what we guide to make your work and home more suitable for you based on pain, injury, height, lighting etc
  • Sports-specific therapy for those who wants to return to sports. Every sport is different so we need to train specific to the sports eg badminton is different to swimming to rugby etc. The needs and muscle movements are vastly different.
  • Deep tissue release may be useful when the structures are overly tight (most of us who sit for long do have very tight muscles) to prevent muscle tears and injuries
  • hot and cold therapies
  • etc

We may refer you out too

In some cases, we may refer you to specialists who can help you as well, such as

  • sports doctors
  • orthopedic surgeons
  • pain doctors
  • etc

Key: preventing (or minimizing) whiplash-related chronic pain

Truth of the matter is that many people suffer from chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury or incident.

An experienced physiotherapists will assess and treat you, and in the assessments most of us will be able to scan and screen those who are more at risk to developing chronic neck pain, and pre-emptively place chronic pain management in your physio program.

It may be that you may need to come in a little longer to make sure that you’re on the right track such as

  • pain is managed
  • soft tissues arent misfiring or compensating
  • anything unusual isnt popping up
  • avoiding activities or postural issues
  • etc

Physio approach to whiplash pain and injury

Generally when you choose a physiotherapist for whiplash management, as well as to prevent or treat chronic whiplash pain, what you need to consider is:

  1. The experience and expertise of the physiotherapist. They need to have experience in successfully treating whiplash and whiplash-related chronic pain (or other body part pains such as back pain or shoulder pains etc).
  2. There is an emphasis towards progressive outcomes within specific timeframes, such as
    • return to work
    • return to home / responsibilities
    • return to sports
  3. Helps teach you a home exercise program between sessions

Where To Next

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