Physical Therapy Treatments For Whiplash

Physical Therapy Treatments For Whiplash | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

Whiplash is a fairly common injury with a variety of different causes.

If you’ve ever heard of whiplash, you’ve probably heard it discussed in the context of car accidents.

However, whiplash can occur while engaging in a number of different activities.

In fact, many types of neck injury often result in whiplash.

A common one most are familiar with is whiplash from a car accident.

Fortunately, whiplash isn’t considered life threatening.

But it can still significantly affect your quality of life.

Don’t worry, we can help.

At Capitol Physical Therapy, one of several whiplash recovery options we offer is physical therapy for a spinal injury.

Let’s take a closer look at and see how you can get help for your whiplash.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a type of neck injury that occurs when your neck is quickly and forcibly jerked forward and back.

Such sudden and forceful movements cause your neck to extend beyond its normal limit, which can damage the surrounding muscles and joints.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, we still have much to learn about whiplash.

However, it appears to primarily affect the muscles, discs, nerves, and tendons in the neck.

It’s important to keep an eye on any symptoms that develop after suffering a neck injury, especially since whiplash isn’t always immediately apparent.

RELATED: What Happens When You Pull A Muscle?

What Are The Symptoms Of Whiplash?

The symptoms of whiplash are fairly straightforward.

In most cases, symptoms tend to appear within 24 hours after injury.

Occasionally, the symptoms may take several days to become fully noticeable.

Therefore, it’s important to keep watch for symptoms and seek early intervention to prevent long term back and neck problems.

Common whiplash symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches, specifically around the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Radiating pain into one or both arms

Less common whiplash symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Concentration issues

While the symptoms of whiplash are easy to identify, it’s important to also get an assessment from a physical therapist, in order to determine the specifics of your injury.

Because whiplash is an injury that involves knocking your head around, it’s common for it to accompany a concussion.

As a result, those who seek physical therapy for a concussion also get treatment for whiplash.

What Causes Whiplash?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, whiplash commonly develops following a car crash.

However, it may also occur for a number of different reasons.

Other potential causes of whiplash include:

If you’ve experienced any type of neck injury, the best approach to determine if you have whiplash is to pay attention to your symptoms and visit a physical therapy clinic.

Physical Therapy Exercises For Whiplash

Left untreated, whiplash can lead to longterm pain and other serious complications.

In some cases, extreme whiplash pain may indicate that your injury has spread to your shoulder, arms, or even caused bone or tissue damage.

In these situations, emergency medical attention is required.

In less serious cases, prompt medical attention is still recommended, as symptoms often take a while to show up.

Following emergency treatment, it’s a good idea to visit a physical therapist within the first six to twelve weeks after an accident.

Especially if you’re having trouble performing daily activities such as:

  • Turning your head
  • Lifting objects
  • Sitting
  • Carrying objects
  • Bending
  • Exercising or practicing sports

RELATED: How To Prevent Injuries When Lifting Heavy Objects

Your physical therapist will start by assessing your situation.

Next, they’ll recommend a series of exercises and care regimes tailored to your unique situation.

The initial goal of physical therapy is pain and inflammation management.

Methods may include:

After that, your physical therapist will provide a series of exercises designed to help you recover.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these exercises.

1. Range Of Motion Exercises

Range of motion exercises encourage you to rotate your head and bend your neck in a way that encourages mobility and removes muscle guarding.

Here’s how to practice pain free range of motion exercises:

  1. Turn your head from side to side, stopping right before you start feeling pain
  2. Continue turning your neck, even if you notice that it’s harder to move in one direction compared to the other
  3. Do this exercise in sets of 5 to 10 repetitions, 3 times a day or more
  4. As a bonus exercise, try moving your neck up and down as well

It’s best to start slow and progress at your own pace in order to protect your tender neck muscles.

RELATED: Why Is It Important To Warm Up Before Exercise?

2. Chin Tuck Exercise

The chin tuck exercise is great for stabilizing the muscle in your neck called the longus colli, which is commonly injured during whiplash.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Roll a towel and place it behind your neck while lying down
  2. Place a towel or pillow under your head as well (optional)
  3. Make sure your face is facing the ceiling before you start
  4. Bring your chin toward your chest, as if nodding “yes” without lifting your head
  5. Keep the muscles in the front of your neck relaxed
  6. Remain in that position for three to five seconds

As time passes, you can try increasing your hold to ten seconds.

Remember to keep an eye on your symptoms and stop doing this exercise if they worsen.

3. Walking

Everyone can benefit from frequent walking, but light walking is particularly beneficial for neck injury recovery.

The way your arms swing and the rotational movement created through your spine when walking helps to increase blood flow.

A good walk can last as little as ten minutes.

If you feel well enough, you can repeat this exercise a few times throughout the day.

If you find your injury has caused your gait to shift and feel unusual or uncomfortable, gait training physical therapy can help.

Do You Need A Neck Brace For Whiplash?

We often see people in movies wearing a neck brace right after a car accident.

In reality, this is usually unnecessary.

Whiplash is most effectively treated through careful recovery of range of motion and improving mobility following an accident.

Neck braces make this significantly more challenging.

However, certain circumstances may warrant a neck brace.

For instance, you may require a neck brace if you’ve experienced a ligament tear or fracture.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Whiplash?

It usually takes about two weeks of physical therapy for your injuries to start healing, but it’s recommended to continue practicing the exercises mentioned previously in order to recover fully.

It generally takes about three months to recover completely from whiplash, but every case is different.

However, it’s important to return to your daily activities as soon as possible, while making sure to stretch and practice the exercises and care regime your physical therapist recommends.

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today

Were you recently involved in a car accident and are now experiencing whiplash?

Or maybe you injured your neck while doing activities you used to enjoy and are now trying to heal and go back to your normal life, but don’t know where to start.

Our experts at Capitol Physical Therapy can help.

We can provide you with the answers and knowledge you’re looking for, and our physical therapists can prepare a comprehensive care regime for your specific needs.

Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today to find out more about how a physical therapy care regime can benefit you.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005


9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772


Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC