This is the most common injury to the cervical spine, caused by a sudden movement of the cervical spine in hyperflexion or hyperextention. This can be caused by a variety of circumstances – sports injuries, accidents at work, or most commonly, road accidents.
Patients typically report intense pain around the cervical muscles as well as stiffness and discomfort when trying to move the head. Some patients also experience a sense of vertigo and headaches.
During the initial consultation, the Case Manager will make an assessment and decide if any imaging is required to assist in making the diagnosis.
Usually all that is required is pain relief advice and a course of conservative treatment which will likely include rehabilitative exercises and possibly some manual therapy.
Whiplash – The rehabilitation
The distortion of the cervical spine (whiplash) is the most common injury of the cervical spine in hyperflexion/hyperextension, without significant damage to the nerve roots and the core.
Early rehabilitation treatment is aimed at the reduction of pain and muscle contractures following the trauma, through the use of analgesic therapies such as laser, tens, hyperthermia, manual therapy for muscle decontraction and early recovery of the range of motion.
Subsequently, the treatment protocol provides postural exercises for the recovery of muscle control and proper postural advice for the cervical spine. This can be achieved through strengthening exercises of the weakened muscles and stretching of the muscles that are of increased tone.
Rehabilitation should advance proprioceptive exercises to help restore vestibular function, orientation and spatial awareness of the head. This should be challenged in a sport specific environment.