We’ve all likely heard of whiplash before. However, if you’ve never actually experienced this type of an injury, you can never truly appreciate the pain and length of rehabilitation that can often be related to it. It is a nasty injury that usually takes a long time to get over. So what is whiplash? What are the best exercises after you have suffered a whiplash injury and what can your physical therapist do to help speed the recovery process? Today on the Fit Stop blog we’ve got one of our spine specialists, Toby Bluth, PT, DPT, answering those questions and sharing with us some of the best exercises for rehabilitating your neck.
Most commonly, whiplash is an injury that takes place in a car accident, however I have seen this type of an injury take place in other situations such as being hit from behind on the ski slopes or taking a hard fall to the ground. The impact results in a rapid and extreme forward-then-backward movement of the head. If the individual is unaware of the impending impact, the blow puts an extreme force of impact into the joints of the head and neck which results in extreme joint pain, inflammation, and sometimes in extreme cases, fractures. If the person sees the impact coming they will typically “brace” for the collision, causing muscle strain and/or muscle tearing. Though possibly less-serious because of the lack of bony involvement, the muscle pain is nonetheless very painful.
One interesting characteristic of whiplash pain is its manifestation. It is common for patients to walk away from their car accident not feeling a whole lot of pain. While your adrenaline is flowing the trauma to the neck joints and muscles often doesn’t manifest itself until a few days later. It is very common for my patients to be in A LOT of pain 1-3 days after the incident, and that pain can last for months.
Whiplash is a very common ailment we treat here at the Fit Stop. After the necessary steps have been taken, and the neck has been cleared by x-ray it is important to get started in PT right away. Early movement to the spine, with supervision and guidance by your physical therapist will ensure the quickest path to recovery. Your treatment at the Fit Stop for whiplash pain will generally consist of three major areas of focus:
● Warm Up – A very important step to prepare the head and neck for increased movement using manual therapy. Heat and/or an active warm up will be used in PT to promote blood flow and relaxation to your tissues..
● Manual Therapy – Utilize a combination of soft tissue massage and gentle joint mobilization to help improve neck motion. After a whiplash injury, lack of neck movement is the main issue, and this needs to be addressed first. This is probably the most important part of your treatment initially for whiplash. Whiplash pain, though initially focused in the neck area, often extends into the upper back muscles and sometimes even into the lower back. Each of those painful areas needs addressed with a hands-on approach by your PT.
● Specific Exercise – One of the most important parts of treating whiplash injury is a customized, focused home exercise program. Your muscles and joints are designed to move; after a whiplash injury it’s important to remind them of that fact. Initially the focus should be on stretching and motion and then with time progressing towards postural strengthening as pain decreases.
So what are some of the best exercises for whiplash? Click on the image below to see some of our most-recommended exercises for whiplash injury. Please note that these are shared for educational purposes only (see disclaimer below); in order to achieve maximum benefit you should consult your physical therapist or healthcare professional for a unique, custom plan of care specific to your individual needs.
Click on the image below to open the PDF in a new window
As always, we generate our exercise programs using www.HEP2go.com, a premier choice for home exercises among PT’s, OT’s, and trainers.
Whiplash can be a very frustrating ailment to deal with. It requires patience, diligence, and consistency to see significant results. Rehabilitation following these accidents comes with ups and downs, good days and bad, but there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. PT can help you get there in the quickest, safest way possible. So give the Fit Stop a call today, and let us help you get on the road to recovery.
Click on one of the links below to contact the nearest Fit Stop clinic and get started on your rehabilitation.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this post is designed to be used for informational purposes only. The diagnoses and treatment plans outlined are extremely generalized and may or may not be the recommended interventions for your specific problem. If you are experiencing pain, you are encouraged to consult a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan that will be in your individual best interest. Fit Stop Physical Therapy claims exemption from accident, injury, or perpetuation of any injury incurred while performing exercises found on this website. The user assumes all risk… and reward!!