Whiplash treatment exercises are one of the most effective ways to alleviate pain and stiffness from whiplash injuries, and they can be used in conjunction with or independent of other treatments like medications and physical therapy.
Whiplash treatment exercises, also called neuromuscular re-education exercises, are designed to get your head and neck moving correctly again to reduce pain and improve your range of motion over time.
Whiplash treatment exercises are vital to recovering from whiplash, especially when it comes to preventing recurrent injury.
In fact, whiplash treatment exercises are just as important as the more common whiplash treatment modalities of rest, ice, and pain management medications.
Below are 9 of the best whiplash treatment exercises to help you recover faster and prevent future injury.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a neck injury that happens when your head suddenly snaps back and forth.
The sudden movement of your head forward, backward, or to either side causes damage to various structures in your neck.
Over time, repeated whiplash can lead to chronic pain and disability.
While many people recover from minor injuries without too much trouble, if you have recurring symptoms after a collision or fall, it’s important to get diagnosed by a medical professional as soon as possible.
If left untreated, severe cases of whiplash can cause permanent nerve damage and other long-term complications.
The goal of chiropractic care for someone who has sustained a whiplash injury is to help manage pain, reduce inflammation and swelling around injured muscles and joints, improve range of motion through gentle stretching, correct abnormal curvature of your spine known as subluxation or misalignment; ultimately preventing re-injury from future collisions.
Common Symptoms Of Whiplash
There are some common symptoms of whiplash that you should be aware of: neck pain and stiffness, which tend to be worse when you move; headaches or migraines; tingling or numbness in your hands, arms, shoulders, or legs; muscle weakness; and trouble turning your head from side to side.
In addition to these symptoms is a special category called emotional distress, which can make life difficult for anyone who has been involved in a car accident.
If you have sustained injuries as a result of an auto collision, it’s not just physical symptoms that may linger—whiplash often leads to mental health issues as well.
Emotional distress caused by auto accidents includes anxiety, fear, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
All of these factors should be taken into consideration if your doctor recommends whiplash treatments after a collision.
Treatments For Whiplash
Consult your doctor or chiropractor before starting any exercise program. In most cases, you’ll want to work in consultation with a specialist who can help you devise a personal plan of attack based on your specific injury and symptoms.
That said, there are some basic movements that have been shown to aid with recovery; below are eight simple exercises that may be helpful for those recovering from whiplash:
1. Chin tucks
Sitting in a sturdy chair, straighten your spine by aligning your ears with your shoulders.
Pull back gently on your chin to elongate and stretch out your neck muscles. Hold for 30 seconds. Breathe deeply into your belly throughout.
This is an excellent exercise for keeping low-back pain at bay.
Repeat up to five times in one sitting.
As you grow more comfortable, perform daily and also add push-ups onto a wall every morning to further elongate and strengthen these muscles.
2. Side To Side Head Rotation
This exercise is easy to perform and can be done in a seated or standing position.
Start by rotating your head as far to one side as you can, making sure not to jerk your neck.
Stop when you feel pain and hold for five seconds, then rotate as far in the opposite direction.
Repeat 10 times on each side.
This helps loosen up tight muscles and also helps improve the range of motion around your neck area.
3. Side Bending
Bend your head and neck to one side, hold for 10 seconds and repeat on another side.
For a variation, raise your arm on the same side as your head and gently lower it.
Repeat 10 times on each side.
4. Scapular Stabilization Exercise
Strengthening your scapular stabilizers, also known as core muscles, will help with whiplash pain.
The goal of a scapular stabilization exercise is to maintain neutral alignment of your neck and upper back while you’re moving.
For example, if you are lying on your stomach, make sure that when you raise up on your forearms and roll back onto your upper back that there’s no movement in your neck or spine.
5. Prone Cobra
Lie on your stomach and raise your upper body, either with your arms extended or interlaced behind your head.
Hold for 10 seconds, repeat five times.
Most people will feel a light stretch at the base of their neck.
Avoid if you have back pain.
6. Doorway stretch
If you’ve been in a car accident, it may be beneficial to address areas of your body that have suffered strained muscles or other injuries.
To stretch out your neck and upper back, place one hand on a doorway and use your free hand to pull yourself toward it.
Do five repetitions, twice a day.
7. Neck Flexion And Extension
Stretching your neck in a flexed and extended position can help ease the pain that often accompanies whiplash.
With your arms hanging down at your sides, raise your chin to look straight up. If possible, try to touch your chin to your chest.
Then reverse direction and let your head drop as far forward as you can comfortably go without straining or bouncing back up.
8. Levator Scapular Stretch
The levator scapulae muscle is located on each side of your neck, underneath your trapezius.
One way to identify it is by feeling it when you shrug your shoulders.
To stretch it, place one hand behind your head and gently push that side’s ear toward your shoulder.
Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Move slowly—you don’t want to force yourself beyond what feels comfortable or you could wind up with an injury!
9. Neck Isometrics
Isometric neck exercises are a good way to start out.
To do these, stand with your back against a wall and slowly tilt your head forward so that you’re looking at your feet.
Pause for 5 seconds, then return to an upright position.
Repeat five times for three sets throughout each day of rehab to get started.
The Best Physical Therapy Exercises For Whiplash Treatment
Whiplash is a debilitating injury that can cause debilitating neck and back pain.
Fortunately, there are several different physical therapy exercises for whiplash treatment that can help to alleviate pain and improve function.
The key to recovering from whiplash is starting with low-impact exercise and gradually building up strength and flexibility.
Body Massage Techniques For Patients Who Suffer From Whiplash
Physical therapists may use massage techniques while treating patients with spinal-cord injuries or cervical-disk problems; these methods aim to reduce swelling and help break up scar tissue caused by tension in the neck area.
The most common types of treatments include trigger-point massage, which uses fingers to apply concentrated amounts of pressure on very specific spots, and myofascial release techniques, which rely on hands or tools such as straps to stretch tight fascia—the connective tissue that surrounds muscles—and relieve muscle pain.
Deep-tissue massage aims to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia. A licensed therapist applies firm pressure using thumbs, knuckles, elbows, forearms, and even feet (with shoes removed) to increase blood flow and improve flexibility.
Since it can be painful at times, a deep-tissue massage is usually performed only once per week for about 10 minutes at a time.
Sleep Position When Suffering From Whiplash
If you’re suffering from a whiplash injury, changing up your sleep position may improve your symptoms.
Being horizontal is relaxing for your back and neck muscles, so if you usually sleep on your stomach or side when not experiencing pain, consider switching to your back at night to ease discomfort.
Be sure to prop yourself up with pillows; lying flat on your back can result in heartburn due to a decreased production of saliva.
Some patients find that sleeping in an upright position—such as propping themselves against pillows in bed—helps alleviate headaches.
Experimenting with new positions is important for finding one that works best for you.
When it comes to recovery, consistency is key:
Don’t be afraid to try different sleep methods until one feels most comfortable.
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