Whiplash is a fairly common injury, and there are many different ways to get it.
When you hear about whiplash, there’s usually a car accident involved, but it can happen to anyone while doing other activities.
If you’ve had an injury to your neck recently, it’s possible you may have whiplash.
While whiplash isn’t considered to be life threatening, it can still significantly affect your quality of life.
Fortunately, spinal injury physical therapy can help.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury that happens when your head is quickly moved forward and back by force.
The sudden movements cause your neck to extend beyond its normal limit, which can damage the muscles and joints in your neck.
Having a neck strain means that there’s damage in the neck muscles and tendons, but when you have a neck sprain the ligaments in the neck are the ones affected.
It’s important to keep an eye on any symptoms that develop after getting an injury to the neck, especially since people don’t usually notice anything wrong right away.
What Are The Symptoms Of Whiplash?
The symptoms of whiplash are fairly straightforward, but most people won’t notice them immediately.
In most cases, symptoms tend to appear within 24 hours after injury.
However, sometimes it can take several days for symptoms to be noticeable, so it’s important to keep watch before the issue can cause long term pain.
Here are the symptoms of whiplash you can expect:
- Neck pain
- Headaches (around the base of the skull)
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Radiating pain into one or both arms
Less common whiplash symptoms include:
- Inability to sleep
- Issues concentrating
While the symptoms of whiplash are easy to identify, it’s important to also get an assessment from a Washington DC physical therapist near me, 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 treatments for concussion also get treatment for whiplash.
What Causes Whiplash?
There are several situations that can cause whiplash.
The most common causes we always hear about are car accidents, but even physical activities and cases of assault can cause whiplash.
Anybody can get whiplash, but it’s most commonly seen in the following situations:
- Car accidents
- Cycling accidents
- Horseback riding injuries
- Sports injuries
- Slip and fall injuries
- Strenuous physical activities
- A result of violence against someone
There are more situations where people can injure their neck, so 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
While most people might think whiplash is not a serious condition, it can rapidly become dangerous or have the potential to cause long term pain.
If you feel extreme pain as a result of your injury or it has spread to your shoulders and arms, go to your nearest emergency hospital, since there could be tissue damage or broken bones.
However, even if you feel relatively normal after such an injury, it’s important to seek treatment, since some symptoms may not be immediately apparent.
After 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
- Carrying objects
- Exercising or practicing sports
Your physical therapist will start by assessing your situation.
After your assessment, your physical therapist will recommend a series of exercises and care regimes that can help your unique case.
In general, the focus at the beginning will be to manage the inflammation and pain caused by your whiplash, which may include the following:
- Applying cold or hot packs to the affected area
- Deep tissue massage
- Ultrasound sessions
After that, your physical therapist will provide a series of exercises designed to help you recover, including:
1. Range Of Motion Exercises
Range of motion exercises include rotating your head and bending your neck to the side to regain mobility and remove muscle guarding.
Here is how to practice pain free range of motion exercises:
1. Turn your head from side to side, then stop right before you start feeling any 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. Try looking up and down as well, as a bonus exercise routine
Practice this slowly, remembering that your neck muscles will be tender.
2. Chin Tuck Exercise
The chin tuck exercise is great for stabilizing the muscle in your neck called the longus coli, which is commonly injured during whiplash.
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
Try increasing your hold to 10 seconds as time passes
Remember to keep an eye on your symptoms and stop doing this exercise if your symptoms worsen.
Walking is always a good exercise, but light walking can be particularly beneficial to heal neck injuries.
The way your arms swing and the rotational movement created through your spine when walking helps to increase blood flow.
However, make sure not to carry any items while you walk, even if it’s inside your home.
A good walk should be at least ten minutes long.
You can repeat this exercise a few times during the day, if you feel well enough to do it.
If you find your injury has caused your gait to shift and feel unusual or uncomfortable, a gait training physical therapist 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 often not necessary.
Working to carefully recover motion after a neck injury has proven to reduce pain and improve mobility, and this can’t be accomplished while being restricted by a neck brace.
However, in certain circumstances a neck brace is still recommended, especially if you’ve experienced a ligament tear or a 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 now suffer from 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 are looking for, and our physical therapists can also prepare a comprehensive care regime for your specific needs.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.
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