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Can Osteopathy help with whiplash?

Whiplash is a non-medical term describing a range of head and neck injuries resulting from an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck.

These forces may result in painful injuries to the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck and other spinal areas. However, sometimes they result in no injury or pain at all.

Whiplash differs in severity from patient to patient, and as such, symptoms vary between cases.  Directly after impact, patients may not be aware of any neck swelling or bruising. Symptoms typically arise between 12 and 24 hours after the accident. However, pain and stiffness from whiplash is typically worse on the day following the accident and may continue to worsen with each day. While car collisions are the most common cause of whiplash, there are a number of other activities and accidents with a strong enough impact to cause whiplash:

Contact sports (rugby, boxing, karate, football)

– A horse-back riding or cycling accident

– Any fall which causes the head to jolt backwards suddenly

– Direct impact of large or heavy object on head


An Osteopath will perform a head and neck examination and discuss your symptoms with you to determine the best course of whiplash treatment. What can make whiplash injuries difficult to treat is that, while they usually present as neck pain, which usually responds well to osteopathic treatment, a lot of structures can be involved. The weight of the head moving around can put forces through your entire spine down to your pelvis, and through the front of your body down to your abdomen. A range of physical, and even psychological symptoms can result.

Treatment methods for whiplash may include:

Gentle Tissue Massage the Osteopath uses direct pressure and friction to try to release the tension in your soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles).

Hot Therapy By using heat, the physio seeks to get more blood to the target area because an increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to that area. Blood is also needed to remove waste byproducts created by muscle spasms, and it also helps healing.

Joint mobilisation to loosen stiff joints.

Exercise to encourage flexibility, strength and good posture.

ROM exercises, low load isometric, postural endurance and strengthening exercises

Fine neck muscle and proprioception retraining programs.

Myofascial release for pain relief.

Education on the injury.

The importance of continuing your normal daily regime

Advice for ergonomic and lifestyle changes. If needed, you will learn how to correct your posture and incorporate ergonomic principles into your daily activities. Even after you recover from whiplash, this posture work should help you because you’ll be able to prevent other forms of neck pain that develop from daily living.


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