Neck pain is the most common reason people seek out physical therapy with 20-70 % of people that experiencing it in their lifetime. Whiplash either acutely or chronically is a large culprit for this incidence. Whiplash can occur due to a variety of reasons but most often in a car accident, direct blow to the head possibly from a sports injury or fall. During a whiplash injury, there is a forceful back-forth motion of the head that may involve varying vertebrae, muscles, ligaments and nerve roots. Depending on the severity of injury, it may be recommended to obtain images to ensure no life-threatening injuries have occurred. Your physical therapist will screen you to determine if you are at high risk and if so refer when appropriate. It is also important to screen for a concussion as these can be quite serious.
Common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, headaches, stiffness, pain in between shoulder blades, pain or numbness into an arm, dizziness, sleep disturbances, or problems concentrating. What started as a specific acute injury often turns chronic with 20-25% of people experiencing symptoms and disability months to even years later. Guarding of the neck, anxiety/depression following trauma and fear of future movement can lead to greater long term disability. This is why early physical therapy is so important! People that seek out physical therapy are less likely to fall into this category and get back to normal motion and function sooner.
Your physical therapist will complete a thorough evaluation to determine what structures are involved and the best way to get you back to normal. Common techniques include manual therapy interventions such as soft tissue and joint mobilizations to increase range of motion and decrease pain, retraining of postural support muscles, strengthening and stabilization exercises to tolerate upright posture, modalities to relieve pain and swelling and taping techniques to decrease pain and return to proper muscle recruitment patterns. All of this will depend on how you respond to treatment and what you need to get you back to your regular routine.
Even if you have been experiencing neck pain for years, it is not too late. Come on in to In Motion OC for a FREE consultation so we can determine how we can help you. Let’s stop this trend of disability together.