Does whiplash heal with at-home exercises? If you’re suffering from the pain and immobility of whiplash, you’re probably searching for anything that you can do to help improve your condition. Here at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy we often treat patients suffering from whiplash and understand your concerns and need to heal. We’ve even expanded our practice with offices in Oakland, Wayne, Fair Lawn, and Closter, to make it more convenient for patients in North Jersey to access care. Let’s look at some of the treatment options and what you can do to help improve your condition.
What is Whiplash?
First, it helps to understand whiplash. You already probably know that it causes significant pain and muscle tightness, but there is more to it than just that. Whiplash can actually be a collection of symptoms known as Whiplash Associated Disorders or WAD which involve the neck, back and even neurological issues. Head movement is often limited as well. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries that occurs from a car accident. That’s because the body is not able to brace itself for the impact of a collision. The acceleration and deceleration causes a massive jarring to the neck. But whiplash isn’t reserved to just automobile accidents. Contact sports and falling accidents can also cause the same type of injury to occur.
Although we generally think of neck pain when we hear the word whiplash, there are many additional symptoms that can be present, including:
What to Do After a Whiplash Injury
One of the first things you should do after a car accident or any type of fall or impact is to seek an evaluation by a medical professional as soon as possible. The neck and spine are extremely delicate and injuries left untreated can become worse. You also don’t want to attempt exercises without the evaluation of a medical professional like a chiropractor or physical therapist. Doing the wrong exercise could do more harm than good! Here at Oakland Spine for example, we will conduct a series of x-rays to reveal any spinal misalignment or injury. This allows us to know the best course of treatment, which can range from spinal manipulation to laser treatment along with physical therapy. Part of this physical therapy treatment may include at-home exercises that you’ll be instructed to do. These whiplash exercises help in many ways and we’ll explore that next.
How Does Exercise Help Whiplash
Remember with all exercises to consult your healthcare provider before attempting. Never continue an exercise if you feel pain or resistance. Don’t push too hard, this can further injure your body.
Exercises for whiplash will address the “Three S’s” of whiplash therapy: stretching, strengthening and stabilizing. These exercises will loosen tight muscles, help address the pain associated with whiplash, and rebuild damaged muscles. Let’s explore a few of these exercises:
Deep Neck Flexor Exercise
The goal of this exercise is to strengthen the muscles that often don’t get a workout because of the more superficial neck flexing muscles known as the SCM for short. This exercise helps to isolate this lesser used muscle group by not allowing the SCM to be used.
- Drop the chin to the chest, but resist the urge to flex your head as well.
- You should feel a stretch in the back of your neck. This movement is known as the “chin tuck.”
- Once you have this move perfected, lie on your back and press your neck to the surface underneath you.
- Hold for 3 to 5 seconds then slowly release the downward movement. Repeat 3 to 5 times and gradually increase the number of reps as your comfort level increases.
Another type of exercise like this can be done while sitting or standing.
- Place your fingertips on your neck.
- Using your neck, gradually move into the chin tuck position and press your neck into your fingertips.
- Release your neck from this position very gradually.
- Repeat this movement 3 to 5 times a few times a day. An easy way to remember this is to set an alarm on your phone to remind you every few hours.
Side Bend Neck Exercise
This exercise can help relieve some of the tightness in your neck while improving your neck mobility.
- Lie on your back with your head facing straight toward the ceiling.
- Gently move your right ear toward your right shoulder. Don’t push if you are experiencing pain.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds.
- Repeat this move on the left side.
- Alternate sides for a total of 3 to 5 times on each side. You can also do the same movement in a seated position as well.
Isometric Neck Exercise
Isometric exercises are gentle static movements that involve the simple contraction of an individual muscle. Think of contracting your calf muscle while you’re sitting. It’s a simple movement which can help injured muscles.
- Place your palm on the side of your head.
- Do not bend your neck, but use your neck muscles to push your head against your hand.
- Hold this press for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side of your head.
- Repeat this movement several times throughout the day.
Because it’s not just your neck which may have been affected by your accident, you want to care for your back and shoulders as well. To relieve tightness in these muscles, try the following exercise:
- Sit in a chair with proper posture and make sure your shoulders are not tightened up. Be conscious to keep your shoulders down.
- Place your right hand under the chair so you’re holding the bottom (without stretching).
- Turn your chin to point to your left armpit and feel the stretch. Only stretch at your comfort level.
- Bring your left hand up over your head if you feel comfortable adding more to the stretch.
- Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds.
- Switch to performing the stretch on the other side of your body.
- Repeat this stretch twice daily.
Lifestyles Changes that Can Help Improve Whiplash
Beyond exercises, there are some lifestyle changes to make while you heal to help improve your condition. Consider making the following adjustments in the weeks after your fall or accident:
- Avoid long periods of sitting. Make sure your posture is supported while sitting at a desk and take frequent breaks that include stretching.
- Before bed, apply an ice pack or heating pad to help relieve pain. Only leave such treatment on for 20 minute sessions.
- Use a specially-designed neck pillow which can help stabilize your neck while you sleep.
- Try to sleep on your back or side but not on your stomach.
Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy Can Help You Recover from Whiplash
If you’ve been in an accident or experienced an injury that has led to whiplash, deciding on the right course of treatment is a critical step. At Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, we focus on non-invasive proven treatments that don’t rely on prescription pain medication or surgery. Instead, our holistic approach uses techniques such as spinal manipulation, laser therapy, massage, acupuncture and physical therapy to effectively heal your injuries and relieve your pain.
Set up an appointment and see why our patients trust us with all of their pain concerns, injuries and chronic conditions. Choose from one of our convenient North Jersey locations in Oakland, Wayne, Fair Lawn, and Closter.