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What you need to know about whiplash

03 August 2023

As reported by Axis, a renowned healthcare provider, whiplash is a common injury sustained by Queenslanders in motor accidents. Whiplash occurs when a person’s head moves backward and then forward, or from side to side suddenly with great force. The force can injure the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck and other spinal areas. In some cases, there is no pain or injury at all.

Whiplash symptoms vary from person to person. People may experience:

  • neck pain,
  • headaches,
  • tenderness in the shoulder,
  • aching in the arms,
  • dizziness,
  • deafness,
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus),
  • memory loss,
  • difficulty swallowing, and
  • jaw pain.

Symptoms may appear immediately after the accident or can appear in the hours or days after the accident.

Recovery from a whiplash injury usually occurs within a few days or weeks. For some people, it may take several months to experience improvements in symptoms. Each person will take a different amount of time to recover because each person's injury and circumstances are different.

What can cause whiplash injury

Whiplash was originally known as “railway spine” and was a common complaint after train crashes in the late 19th century. These days, it mostly occurs after car accidents and describes injuries caused by a specific mechanism – the sudden jerk forward and then backward of the head that can damage the neck's soft tissues.

Recovering from whiplash with specialised care

Suncorp Insurance are committed to supporting your recovery according to your individual needs. We understand that every person will have different needs to support their recovery.

Once your doctor confirms a diagnosis of whiplash the best treatment is a progressive return to your normal activities whilst taking care with your neck. You could potentially go back to work but talk to your employer about modified duties or hours. You could also potentially go back to the gym or continue your normal exercise routine but consider completing low impact and recovery routines. You could also speak to your GP about over the counter medications that can help reduce pain and swelling in the early and middle stages of recovery.

The Motor Accidents Insurance Commission (MAIC) in conjunction with University of Queensland RECOVER Injury Research Centre, have produced an excellent booklet explaining how to self-manage your recovery from Whiplash. This booklet and associated videos of recommended exercises can be found here.

Some people may find their symptoms don’t reduce as quickly as they expect and might need some extra help to recover and get back to normal life. That’s why Suncorp has partnered with Axis, a healthcare provider specialising in recovery from musculoskeletal injuries. In collaboration with Suncorp, Axis have developed a unique healthcare program to support people recovering from whiplash.

Axis’s highly skilled physiotherapists and psychologists can provide assessment and ongoing clinical advice throughout your recovery journey. Axis will work with your treating health care team to ensure any blockers to your recovery are addressed. If necessary, they can also provide a specialised pain education programme.

Rebecca Gallagher, Suncorp’s QLD CTP Injury Management Leader, has seen firsthand how Axis supports injured people by quickly connecting them to specialised care. “Recovery from an unexpected illness or injury is an unknown journey for many. The Axis team are an additional specialist support help people navigate the treatment they need”.

Factors affecting whiplash recovery

While most people quickly recover from a whiplash injury, others might experience prolonged symptoms that can take a little longer to recover from.

Everyone’s recovery will be different depending on their individual circumstances. Your treating health care team will consider how your body, mind, and environment can affect your health to help create a plan for your recovery. Other factors impacting recovery include:

Pre-existing medical conditions

People with pre-existing conditions can experience a more difficult time recovering from whiplash.

Psychological factors

Distress and feelings of anxiety are normal following a traumatic event. Sometimes these feelings can be overwhelming and can negatively impact recovery. People experiencing such feelings can have difficulty engaging with treatment due to decreased energy levels, unhelpful thoughts patterns and fear of reinjury.

Social factors

Social support, including family and friends, can positively impact recovery. Conversely, a lack of social support can leave people feeling alone and unheard in their suffering. This can lead to slower rehabilitation and increase the risk of chronic pain.

Post-injury activity level

Muscles in the body quickly decondition when people stop being active. Engaging in physical activity and avoiding prolonged periods of rest following whiplash can result in better recovery outcomes.

Suncorp Insurance, partnered with Axis, will consider your individual factors and ensure you receive the necessary treatment and care to support a speedy recovery.

Filing your whiplash injury claim

Suncorp QLD CTP Insurance is here to help you feel confident, even during this uncertain time. That’s why we will consider your individual needs and connect you with our healthcare partners to develop your own recovery plan.

Make a claim

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Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before buying any insurance products. Target Market Determination is also available. Injury recovery advice and occupational health services provided by Axis Rehabilitation at Work PTY LTD ABN 23 633 631 295. The information is intended to be of general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.