What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a non-medical term used to describe neck pain following an injury typically to the soft tissues of the neck (specifically ligaments, tendons, and muscles). It is caused by an abnormal motion or force applied to the neck that causes movement beyond the neck’s normal range of motion. It is usually caused by a flexion-extension motion of the neck that pulls and strains the neck muscles and ligaments.
Do You Suffer From a Heavy Head?
A common consequence of car accidents or trauma to the neck results in both pain and weakness of the neck muscles. These symptoms often present to the patient as a heavy head, and what we call ‘heavy head syndrome’. Many of our patients who suffer from this condition respond well to our neck strengthening program. If you suffer from a heavy head, contact us to find out how we can help you.
Whiplash symptoms can vary enormously. This will depend on the type of accident, the speed at impact, car type and the position of your neck and body at impact. A typical list of symptoms may include:
- Neck, upper back or shoulder blade pain
- Pins and needles or numbness
- A heavy head
- Arm pain or weakness
- Jaw pain
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and are experiencing any symptoms, we suggest you make an appointment with your GP, if symptoms are severe you may need to go straight to an Emergency Department. If symptoms are less severe, we recommend you visit your local Physiotherapist for an initial assessment and to be guided through an acute phase management program. Click ‘Learn More’ below to view the guidelines we follow at the Melbourne Whiplash Centre.
Assessment & Treatment
The Initial Assessment is conducted by a qualified Physiotherapist. Firstly we discuss how your problem came about, and how it has affected your lifestyle. Then we will ask you specific questions about your pattern of pain and how it impacts on your day to day activities. Finally there is an Objective Assessment using the Multi Cervical Unit to measure the true mobility and strength of your neck.
What to do if you recently had a car accident?
If you have recently been involved in a car accident you should consult your local GP/Doctor to see if any scans or diagnostic imaging is required. Please bear in mind that around 50% of all Whiplash injuries fully recover with time, appropriate treatment and management from a qualified health practitioner (read supporting article).
We find many of the patients who do not respond within the first 3 months are suitable candidates for our neck rehabilitation program. The neck rehabilitation program we offer is exclusive to the MWC and over 100 clinics around the world have modeled their facilities on the technology and techniques we developed at our clinic here in Melbourne.
To view our acute management protocol following a whiplash trauma Click Here
Frequently Asked Questions
Once we have conducted our detailed 2-hour objective examination, we will know if you are suitable for our program. The assessment is a functional assessment of your neck. Most importantly, it provides us with the ability of your neck muscles to generate force. The head alone weighs between 8-10lb’s ( 4.5kg’s) and many patients tell us they struggle to hold their heads up, what we call ‘Heavy Head Syndrome’. Patients are suitable for our neck rehab program if we find a weak set of neck muscles. And if we can make them stronger on our program, then the majority of our patients feel significantly better. However, if we find your neck muscles are within expected values, don’t worry. Even though we may not put you on our rehab program, we may still be able to help you thanks to the experience within our team of Physiotherapists.
If you have recently suffered a motor vehicle accident, there is a defined ‘acute management protocol’ that should be followed to minimise the risk of symptom exacerbation. We recommend you contact our centre on: (03) 9131 0712 to see one of our staff who have advanced skills in the assessment and treatment of Acute Whiplash.
However, if the pain is severe, we recommend you consult your local doctor for an initial examination and appropriate diagnostic testing prior to your assessment at The Melbourne Whiplash Centre.
The latest evidence suggests 50% of people following Whiplash will have ongoing symptoms past 3 months. If this is the case then neck strengthening becomes an important component to the road back to full recovery. The staff at the Melbourne Whiplash Centre will design a specific and personalised neck rehabilitation program based on your assessment findings. To find out more, call now to talk to one of our experienced Whiplash practitioners (read supporting article)
Traditionally, the commonly used term “Whiplash” describes an injury to the neck whereby it has sustained a sudden acceleration then deceleration force – the head is “whipped” back and forth on the neck. The latest research on whiplash indicates that typically in a rear end collision the body moves forward rapidly leaving the head behind. This causes a “shearing” motion in the neck that can lead to both bony and soft tissue injuries. It is most common in motor car accidents, especially rear end collisions, but there are many other causes such as sporting accidents or blows to the head.
The symptoms associated with whiplash can vary, and may include headaches, neck or arm pain, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, inability to concentrate, blurred vision, or a feeling that the head has to be supported (what we call “heavy head syndrome”).
As most Whiplash injuries damage the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments), this is unlikely to show up on a standard X-ray. However, an MRI may be of more value, and your GP is best to discuss and arrange this with you. The severity of the initial symptoms should be considered when determining the most appropriate scan. Muscles that have been damaged and weakened will not necessarily show up on these scans once symptoms become chronic, that’s when our neck evaluation can provide great insight into which neck muscles are working correctly and which ones have been impacted due to the pain and trauma our patients have been suffering.
The majority of patients entering our facility are suffering from weakened neck muscles. The trauma results in pain, the pain results in dysfunction, i.e. it hurts so you stop using your neck properly and the muscles weaken over time. What we have found is that as we strengthen patient’s neck muscles, many symptoms are resolved or settle considerably. Pain medication can be reduced, and many activities can be resumed.
Strengthening has been used previously with other joints such as the lower back, the knees, ankles and shoulders, but we are now able to strengthen the neck muscles. It is common sense – if your muscles are too weak, strengthening them can only improve your function.
One of the most common symptoms of someone suffering from weak neck muscles is a heavy head. What we call, ‘Heavy Head Syndrome’. People suffering from this syndrome have an excellent success rate with our program. So if your neck feels heavy or if you struggle to hold it up at times, then call us now on (03) 9131 0712 and let us help you.
An assessment involves 2 one-hour sessions with a fully qualified Physiotherapist on the Multi-Cervical Unit. The assessment involves the accurate measurement of neck movement and strength, and investigates how this condition affects the patient’s daily life. These measures are compared to so-called “normal” values, and a treatment program is customized for the patient. Each patient will receive a comprehensive computer-generated report detailing the results of their assessment.
Each treatment program is specifically designed according to the results of the assessment. The core of the program generally involves 3 x 30 minute strengthening sessions per week, with a MWC team member trained in the application of the Multi-Cervical-Unit (one of our Physio’s or Physio Aides). The program is designed to strengthen the muscles of the neck, and the patient is re-assessed after each three-week phase to measure progress. Other treatments may be prescribed as required. The average treatment phase is 6 – 9 weeks, depending upon the nature of the problem.
At the end of every 9 treatment sessions, the patient will be re-assessed, and their results again compared to “normal” values, and the values obtained in the initial assessment. When the results of testing match the expected values, the patient is discharged, and at this point many of our clients experience significant reduction in their symptoms.
No. As the neck muscles becomes stronger and less symptomatic, patients will begin to do more. As they start to do more housework, resume playing sport, or lifting the kids their neck muscles will be getting a “mini-workout”. We are returning the neck muscles to normal strength levels – normal activity should maintain this. Our follow up research suggests that at 6 months and at 2 years our patients maintain their improvements in strength and state they are still significantly better than when they commenced our program.
Yes. The program is devised and overseen by a Physiotherapist or Physio aide who has undergone training on the neck machine. Strengthening has long been considered an essential part of rehabilitation for many other parts of the body – it is only now that we have the technology to accurately assess and treat the neck in this way.
Our Director, Physiotherapist Robert De Nardis was instrumental in the design the technology and also developed the clinical application of the neck machine, called ‘The Melbourne Protocol’. This protocol has been used in well over 100 Whiplash clinics around the world and has even been used by the UK Air-force to help their Fast Jet Fighter Pilots recover from neck issues.
A detailed two hour assessment at our Centre provides you with a comprehensive functional report of your neck. The Multi-Cervical Unit objectively assesses the strength and range of motion of your neck. Further, our sophisticated computer analysis compares your results to expected values.
Tests such as X-Rays or MRI involve a static analysis of your neck bones and tissues. The Multi-Cervical Unit offers a dynamic functional assessment – never before has it been possible to accurately define where the weakness is in your neck. Muscle weakness and imbalance leads to pain and dysfunction. We can define this and correct for this.
Our research indicates that a stronger neck leads to increased mobility and function with a reduction in pain and symptoms. Many patients attending our facility feel significant improvement after only 3-4 weeks of treatment (9 sessions). Our outcome data shows that our average patient has had symptoms for over 5 years and over 80% of our clients say they have improved. With over 60% of patients stating they have completely recovered or are significantly better after only 18 sessions.
No, not if you are paying for your assessment privately. If your treatment is covered by TAC, Workers Compensation or a Third Party please call in advance with your insurance details and our admin team will confirm your details and arrange an appointment for you.
Yes, if you have Private Health cover your consultations will be made with one of our Physio team members so that you can claim from your health fund.
Contact us on (03) 9131 0712 to make a booking to obtain a detailed, objective functional assessment of your neck.
This article summarises the history of the Multi Cervical Unit, including the development of The Melbourne Protocol, research showing the benefits of the program and details the program itself
A Twelve-Item Symptom Intensity Rating Scale for Cervical Spine Dysfunction
This study showed the Symptom Intensity Rating Scale (used as part of the assessment/re-assessment at the Melbourne Whiplash Centre) is a reliable tool
Predicting Short-Term Response and Non-Response to Neck Strengthening Exercise for Chronic Neck Pain
This study showed characteristics of a responder on the Multi Cervical Unit (as used at the Melbourne Whiplash Centre) which is useful when designing and implementing a rehab program
The Effect of Neck-specific Exercise With, or Without a Behavioral Approach, on Pain, Disability, and Self-Efficacy in Chronic Whiplash-associated Disorders
This study showed benefits of 12 weeks of physiotherapist-led neck specific exercise in those with chronic Whiplash Associated Disorder
Neck-specific exercise may reduce radiating pain and signs of neuro
This study showed benefits of 12 weeks of neck-specific exercise on the arm symptoms and neurological signs in those with chronic Whiplash Associated Disorder
Practical Management of Whiplash: A Guide For Patients
A useful guideline in Question/Answer format covering common questions asked following the early stages of a Whiplash Injury
Neck-specific exercise improves impaired interactions between ventral neck muscles in chronic whiplash: A randomized controlled ultrasound study
This study showed the benefits of 3 months of neck-specific exercises in neck muscle interactions and pain reduction in those with chronic Whiplash Associated Disorder
Effects of Neck-Specific Exercises Compared to Waiting List for Individuals With Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders: A Prospective, Randomized Controlled Study
This study showed significant improvements in terms of neck disability and quality of life in those with chronic Whiplash Associated Disorder through 3 months of neck-specific exercise
Active Neck Muscle Training in the Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain in Women A Randomized Controlled Trial’
This study showed significant improvements in terms of neck pain and disability in those performing 12 months of strength and endurance neck specific exercise in those with chronic non-specific neck pain
Evaluation of cervical range of motion and isometric strength: reliability and validity
The Multi-Cervical Unit has been found to be reliable and valid for testing the cervical active range of motion and isometric neck muscle strength for both normal and patient subjects.