Whiplash is a sprain of the joints and muscles in the neck resulting from an impact that causes the head to be “whipped” forwards and backwards (like in a car accident).
Our muscles cannot react fast enough to stop the joints from going beyond their normal anatomical position. This is why your neck will feel hot the first day, then stiff the next day as the swelling in the tissue starts to accumulate. Icing for the first few days after the accident can limit the inflammatory reaction and give you some much needed pain relief. In the second week, the heat will feel good to relax the stiff and tense muscles that are guarding your joints that are not positioned correctly. The small facet joints will often get fixated or stuck in an abnormal position. This is where a Manual and Manipulative Physiotherapist (FCAMPT) can start to gently assess and treat the affected areas. It is important to go easy on the treatment of the neck for the first six weeks. We have to let the healing take place and encourage gentle, normal movement, being careful not to be too aggressive.
Contact Nose Creek Physiotherapy to learn more and begin treatment for this condition.
Exercises for Whiplash
- Static Loading Exercises: Chin Tuck
Deep neck flexor muscles are activated by lying down on the floor and simply tucking your chin to your Adam’s apple (or throat) without lifting your head. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat up to 10 times.
- Static Loading Exercises: Chin Tuck Head Lift
Once the chin tuck exercise is pain free and your Therapist wants you to start loading your neck, simply tuck your chin and lift your head 1 inch off the floor and hold as long as you can within your pain free intensity or fatigue (whichever comes first). It is normal to feel your muscles vibrate and shake during the hold time. Hold up to 1 minute and then rest for 1 minute, repeating 2 times. Test yourself once a week to see if your endurance and strength is increasing. Research demonstrates that a normal neck will be able to hold for: Females 89 seconds, Males 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Make sure not to push through pain.
- Dynamic Resisted Tubing Exercises: Rotation
Assume an upright posture, with your shoulder blades tucked down and in. Start with your neck at a 45 degree angle away from the tubing, then keep your chin tucked in, rotate to the opposite side to a 45 degree angle towards the tubing.
Start off with 3 sets of 10 repetitions, then progress to 3 sets of 30 repetitions over the next 3 to 4 weeks. As you feel better with the movement, you can increase the range of motion to full rotation into the resistance or the side that the tubing is on. Remember not to get into a chin poking posture, as this will put extra strain on your upper neck soft tissues.
- Dynamic Resisted Tubing Exercises: Flexion
Assume an upright posture with your shoulder blades tucked down and in. Tuck your chin, and slowly lower your chin to your chest within your pain free range of motion. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions increasing to 30 repetitions over the next 3 to 4 weeks, as the muscles get used to the exercise.
- Shoulder Blade Retraction (Scaphion)
• Stand in a good upright posture, knees slightly bent, lower core engaged, chest up and shoulder blades down and in, chin tucked to neutral and hold this posture throughout the exercise. Do not let the chin poke.
• Hold the ends of the elastic with your elbows straight and thumbs pointing out.
• Initiate the motion with the shoulder blades, drawing the blades backward with the arms. Do not shrug.
• Pause at the end of the movement, then slowly return to the starting position.
• Concentrate on the pattern of the movement, controlling your head and neck posture before increasing the resistance.
- Stabilization Prone Plank
• Lying on your stomach, prop up on your forearms and toes.
• Lift up until your body creates a straight line.
• Tilt your pelvis up, while keeping your back straight.
• Hold for 60 seconds. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
- Side Plank
• Support your upper body on your elbow, making sure the elbow is directly under the shoulder.
• Lift your pelvis until your body is aligned off the sides of the foot and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
• Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
• Squeeze your buttocks and abdominals/pelvic floor and lift pelvis/hips off the floor. Be careful not to arch your back.
• Keep your back straight and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
• Slowly return to initial position and repeat.
• Once you can hold for 60 seconds pain free for one week in the level 1 bridge position with both feet on the floor, you can progress to level 2 bridge by straightening out one leg and holding up to 60 seconds (start off with 10 second holds and gradually hold longer).