You're driving along (or maybe stopped at a red light) and suddenly you get rear-ended. Holy cow! What a shock. You check yourself for any obvious injuries, get out to check the other person and then your car. A little bit later that day you might notice the neck starting to hurt.
What is whiplash and what are whiplash symptoms?
We have physics to thank for whiplash. The energy from the car that caused the accident, got transferred through your car and through you to your neck.
Your muscles, nerves , discs and connective tissue can all take a hit (no pun intended) during a car accident. This can lead to pain and guarding of muscles all throughout the neck making it painful to move in any direction. If you saw oncoming vehicle coming, you may have even reactively tensed up.
Many people recover on their own with rest and time. However, some don't and that neck can stay pretty grumpy. If that sounds like you, it's time to seek care from a physical therapist.
How can a physical therapist help my whiplash?
We start by calming down those, rightfully so, irritated tissues. After a full examination to rule out any red flags, they will perform gentle manual therapy techniques to soothe the neck. There is likely a fair amount of muscle guarding going on in order to protect the spine. We need to remind the muscles it's safe now and they can go ahead and relax.
Gentle stretching. The neck just went through a fair amount of trauma, we don't need to crank hard into a stretch. Light, mild, comfortable stretching is where it's at.
Should I ice or heat it?
Once you are 3-4 days out from your injury you can switch from ice to moist heat. Heat will help decrease the muscle guarding. Ice initially helps to decrease any inflammation present. (As an aside, inflammation is a good thing! The inflammatory response is important because it brings healing to damaged cells)
Once your acute injury has calmed down your physical therapist will guide you through appropriate postural and deep cervical muscle strengthening.
Whiplash can also cause headaches in addition to neck pain. We have several cervical muscles that attach onto the skull. Therefore, it isn't surprising if you have also developed headaches as related to sub-occipital and upper trap tightness.
Physical therapy for whiplash in Columbia and Baltimore, Maryland
If you have neck pain related to whiplash reach out to our office today!