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Physical Therapy Treatment for Whiplash

Whiplash is the layman’s term for cervical strain/sprain injuries to the neck, usually caused by a car accident. The injury occurs when the head snaps forward and back very quickly, resulting in overstretching, or tears, in the muscle or ligament. Physical Therapy can help in recovery immediately after the injury as well as in the long term, if it takes you awhile to acknowledge this minor but serious injury.

If you come to Physical Therapy immediately post injury, it will significantly help to reduce the pain and inflammation of the swollen and inflamed soft tissues. Many of the modalities used in Physical Therapy assist in regulation of pain, along with reducing spasm and swelling and inflammation.

If you let it heal on your own, you’ll probably find that the neck will be stiff and uncomfortable. It also might affect the shoulder. Oftentimes, if the injury is bad enough and you’ve waited long enough, you will finally acknowledge the fact that you will need Physical Therapy now to correct a lot of compensatory and adaptive mechanics in the neck and shoulder.

The problem is that sometimes patients don’t know to come in for treatment for this injury. Physical therapists often see a whiplash injury after a few weeks, when the patient realizes that the pain has not gone away.

Physical Therapy treatments would include range of motion or flexibility exercises as well as manual therapy techniques. Two stretching exercises are upper trapezius stretching and levator scapula stretching. Manual therapies would include joint mobilizations to the cervical spine to restore joint mobility and reduce stiffness in the surrounding soft tissue.

If you come for physical therapy treatment immediately after a whiplash injury, your prognosis is excellent. Because people come in later, or don’t realize that it’s a real injury, patients can often have persistent pain and longer recovery. Always consult a Physical Therapist after a whiplash injury to ensure your best chances for recovery.

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