Top 5 Exercises following a Whiplash Injury
Whiplash, also called whiplash associated disorder, is caused by an abrupt jerking motion of the head. Often caused by a car accident, the intervertebral joints, disks, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots of the neck may become injured or inflamed due to the forces occurring during the trauma. The sudden and strong rocking forward and backward, whiplash and whiplash associated disorders (WAD) represent a common injury. It also represents a controversial one too.
Symptoms of whiplash may be delayed for 24 hours or more after the trauma. This may be due to the overall stress of the situation, but within 1-3 days the initial stages of whiplash usually present themselves. Common symptoms are neck pain and stiffness, headaches, dizziness, pain in the shoulder and lower back, and pain between the shoulder blades.
In the acute early stages, patients should rest, let their body recover, and perform gentle movements. Try to sleep in a comfortable position as this can be hard if you have neck pain. Anti-inflammatory pain medications can be useful, and these are the first line of management from a doctor. NSAIDs have the ability to reduce swelling and pain, and can help with the overall improvement. Just be cautious of the effects on the stomach, so talk with your doctor about possible side-effects.
Ice can be a good alternative to medication, if the symptoms are not too severe. It should be applied in 5–10-minute segments at least twice daily, but don’t apply it directly to the skin. Some people prefer heat, and this can be useful too. Heat often helps with the mobility, and ice can help reduce pain. The combination of using them together can also help, with ten minutes of ice followed by ten minutes of heat once or twice per day.
Exercises are one of the most important ways to rehabilitate following a whiplash or road traffic injury. At Surrey Physio, we also use a combination of manual therapy, electrotherapy, and rehab exercises, as well as advice and guidance. The combination of these together can be very helpful, and patients do report positive outcomes.
Top 5 Exercises to Improve your Pain Following Whiplash
1. Horizontal Smooth Pursuit Sitting: Sit up straight, and place your arm in front of you with your thumb pointing up. Keep your head still, and your eyes should follow the movement of your thumb. Move your thumb left and right as your eyes follow. Only move your eyes as far as feels comfortable, do not strain.
2. Vertical Smooth Pursuit Sitting: Sit up straight, and place your arm in front of you with your thumb pointing up. Keep your head still, and your eyes should follow the movement of your thumb. Move your thumb up and down as your eyes follow. Only move your eyes as far as feels comfortable, do not strain.
3. Gaze Stability Neck Rotation Sitting: Sit up straight, and place your arm in front of you with your thumb pointing up. Keep your arm still and your vision fixed on your thumb, so do not move your thumb or your gaze at all during the movement. Rotate your neck left and right while keeping your gaze fixed within your field of vision. Only move as far as feels comfortable, do not strain your eyes.
4. The Commute: Walk forwards whilst keeping your gaze and head straight. Turn your body left and right, as if avoiding other people on a busy railway platform.
5. Avoid It! Retraction: Stand up straight with one leg behind you. Move your head and neck backwards as if avoiding an object. It is fine to allow your chin to tuck during the movement.
Whiplash can be a very chronic problem, but doing exercises gently for your neck is important to maintain mobility and reduce pain.
If you are a therapist and like the exercises and information in this document, please go to www.rehabmypatient.com and sign up to this amazing exercise prescription software. If you are a patient and need some advice, treatment or a consultation, please go to www.surreyphysio.co.uk/bookonline. We provide virtual and face-to-face appointments with our expert team.
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