The subject of whiplash injuries hasn’t been far away from the headlines in recent years, as critics of personal injury claims management firms point towards the number of fraudulent cases; based on – at least as they see it – on the rise to prominence of the so-called, ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ culture.
Whilst there’s no doubt that blatant scammers, unscrupulous career criminals and general ‘chancers’ have infiltrated this claims sector of late, there’s still a significant volume of bona fide whiplash victims who have genuinely suffered an injury which has left them with serious and often on-going pain and discomfort; whichever way you look at it.
These unfortunate individuals are entitled to pursue and seek financial compensation from parties held accountable/ultimately responsible for their negligent actions, whilst at the same time the injured party needs to physically address the short and (potentially) longer term legacy of the whiplash effects.
What exactly whiplash?
Without going into too fine a detail, whiplash injuries are consistent with physical trauma which from the outset ischaracterised by (and subsequently causes) the victim’s head to snap forwards and backwards, involuntarily; typically occurring when an individual comes into direct contact with an object with force and speed, and more normally associated with road traffic accidents for the most part.
The resultant discomfort and pain (although not always immediate and often materialising a day or so after the collision/abrupt contact) manifests itself in the neck muscles primarily, however can have more severe consequences and lead to mild traumatic brain injury in some instances. Yet in the majority of cases the symptoms are less worrying from a long-term perspective and as touched on above come to bear as transient neck and shoulder stiffness and pain (which can extend down through the shoulders and on to the arms creating a sensation of weakness), together with the presence of headaches and dizziness from time to time.
How long does it take to recover from whiplash?
It’s difficult to put a timeframe on the passage of time required for whiplash injuries to heal, and every individual case will be different and treated on its own specifics. It’s not as though (unless in the most extreme cases) that you won’t be able to continue with your everyday activities be they at work, rest or play, it’s just that you’ll be engaging in them through a degree of discomfort and potential pain as your body naturally repairs the transient damage.
Indeed, it’s not unheard of for some whiplash injuries to take several weeks or months for the stiffness and associated discomfort to clear up in its entirety and during this time individuals will probably be restricted in various ranges of motion they’d usually have no noticeable physical limitations with.
As any GP or physiotherapist will tell those getting back on their feet after suffering a whiplash injury, it’s more than likely you’ll have to tone down certain daily activities for a few weeks while the affected muscles fully mend and the memory kicks back in. That said, and by the same token, medical experts would also advise that whiplash victims try to resume normal, pre-accident levels of activity at their first convenience, so as to deter any longer term negative effects of the initial impact which could prove to be a risk should a convalescing whiplash victim delay assuming previous routines.
Are there any exercises to help treat and cure whiplash?
There are a number of targeted exercise programmes a whiplash injury sufferer can adopt in the aftermath of sustaining the initial injury; and once they’ve been given the green light to return to any levels of exercise which focuses on the problem areas (notably the neck, shoulder and back muscles).
However like most things, they should only then be followed with caution and with a more softly-softly approach, with individuals easing themselves into whatever fitness programme they choose to follow. Beneath we’ve outlined the key elements you should be aware of before embarking on any form of whiplash injury exercises, to afford you an idea of how best to approach the topic full stop;
- You MUST perform ALL exercises slowly and carefully, paying particular attention to any warning pains
- You MUST try and ensure that EVERY movement is carried out in both a smooth and controlled manner, so as to avoid the likelihood of any potential strains, tension or jerkiness
- You MUST relax your mouth, chin and jaw when engaging in ANY of the following whiplash injury-targeting exercises, while your lips should be touching but with your teeth slightly apart
- You MUST stop you exercise regime and speak with your GP or physiotherapist ASAP in the event of experiencing ANY episodes of dizziness, blurred vision, fainting, sudden pain or unusually severe pain (or if you are finding that exercising your neck causes headaches)
Exercise for Whiplash 1 – Chin Nod
Do I need any kit/equipment? – Just a soft pillow and a comfortable base
How do I perform this? – Assume a lying down flat pose with a soft pillow placed directly under your neck, and with your knees raised in the traditional semi-supine position. Adopting a measured technique, slowly nod your head forward, paying attention to the muscles located at the front of your neck and making sure that you stop the forward motion BEFORE you feel them contract. Hold the final position for a count of 5 seconds and then gently and slowly move your head back to the start position
How many reps should I do? – Aim to complete 10 reps after gradually building up to this target
Exercise for Whiplash 2 – Rotation
Do I need any kit/equipment? – No, none whatsoever
How do I perform this? – From a neutral standing position, carefully turn your head from the one side to the other in a slow, measured movement. Ensure that your eyes follow a natural arc following the direction of your head. Your objective should be to turn your head until your chin is pretty much over your shoulder; although you may need to gradually build your way up to this fuller range of movement depending on the physical extent of your whiplash injury. Repeat the same performance in the opposite direction
How many reps should I do? – Again, ideally work towards 10 reps on each side
Exercise for Whiplash 3 – Isometric Exercises
Do I need any kit/equipment? – Yes. A comfortable chair
How do I perform this? – By seating yourself in said chair and adopting a neutral sitting position. Ensure that your lower back is rod straight and slowly start to pull your shoulder blades gently back and down; remembering not to tense your chin as you set about this exercise. Now place your right hand on your right cheek and proceed to gently rotate your head to the right, whilst resisting the movement with your hand. Effectively the natural resistance you apply with your hand should be just enough to stop your head from physically moving. Aim to maintain this position for 5 seconds whilst pushing with your hand, and then repeat the range of motion only applying the left hand/head co-ordination technique. Important to note: This exercise MUST be performed gently, so don’t exert more than 10% – 20% effort
How many reps should I do? – Work up to completing 5 reps on each side
Exercise for Whiplash 4 – Anterior Shoulder Stretch
Do I need any kit/equipment? – No, nothing is required for this, aside from yourself
How do I perform this? – Designed to help stretch out the anterior muscles located in the shoulders to offer pain relief, this specific whiplash exercise is also geared up to remind us that it’s not just the neck muscles which are directly affected by whiplash injuries, but the upper back also suffers with subsequent tension and discomfort. Standing up straight with your feet roughly shoulder length apart for balance, reach both arms back behind your body and grasp your hands together. Now proceed to pull your arms up toward the ceiling while keeping your back straight and perpendicular to the floor, so as to achieve the most effective stretch
How many reps should I do? – Essentially as many times as you feel comfortable to alleviate the pain, yet within reason/comfort zone
Exercise for Whiplash 5 – Sternocleomastoid Stretch
Do I need any kit/equipment? – None
How do I perform this? – Standing (or alternatively, assuming a seated position) your back should remain straight and your hand should be placed on one shoulder from the outset. Now tilt your head back and to the side opposite your hand, which should ensure that you feel the stretch in the same side of your neck as where your hand is. This particular stretch gets its name from the group of muscles that wraps over your shoulder from your neck and attaches to your collar bone. Hold the stretch for an optimum 5 to 10 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat for the other side
How many reps should I do? – Again, it depends on how the exercise feels to you. The secret is not to over-do it, yet repeat enough times to feel a benefit
Exercise for Whiplash 6 – Supraspinatus Stretch
Do I need any kit/equipment? – Zero or either
How do I perform this? – Standing straight up, place the backs of your palms on your sides toward the middle of your back; resulting in your elbows pointing out. Proceed to arch your back (so your chest is protruding) and roll your shoulders up and down to help stretch out your upper back. If you’re feeling capable (and versatile enough at this juncture) you may choose to combine this stretch with a normal neck roll, simply by rolling your neck back and forth (and side to side) at the same time you stretch out your upper back
How many reps should I do? – Entirely up to the individual. This stretch targets the upper-back muscles around the shoulders predominantly, and in terms of reps it mostly depends on the physical status of the person performing the reps at the time