There are about 6 million car accidents in the United States every year. The most common of these accidents are rear-end collisions. Injuries frequently happen in these accidents and that usually means whiplash and a visit to the physical therapist for those involved. Estimates show that more than a million Americans suffer whiplash injuries each year. Car accidents are the leading cause of whiplash, but it can happen in other ways too. For example, a contact sport like football can leave players with whiplash injuries from a collision.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash happens when neck muscles suffer a strain that is caused by a rapid movement backward and then forward. The neck extends beyond its normal range of motion. The sudden motion causes tendons and ligaments in the neck to stretch and tear. This is whiplash.
Symptoms of whiplash may not surface right away. For this reason, it is very important that passengers get an immediate medical evaluation. Waiting to seek treatment could result in long-term damage to your neck.
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
Less common symptoms
- Inability to sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
What You Need To Know
How A Physical Therapist Can Help
A physical therapist is an effective option for whiplash recovery because the problem is with the soft tissues in your neck. It will help car accident victims increase strength, improve flexibility, reduce pain, and restore the proper function and movement of the tissues in your neck. Recent studies show that people who see a physical therapist immediately after an accident are less likely to suffer from long-term conditions. Just one example of these conditions would be degenerative disc disease.
There are two aspects of physical therapy that come into play for dealing with whiplash. They are active treatments and passive treatments. Active treatments refer to things that you will do. Passive ones are treatments that you don’t have to participate in.
The active treatments are what most people probably envision when they think about physical therapy. This will include working with your physical therapist to perform specifically designed exercises that will build your strength and range of motion. Each patient has an individualized program designed to meet their specific needs. This includes your current condition as well as your health history. Recovery may include working to correct any issues with your posture as well. This provides additional benefits beyond just correcting whiplash issues.
In most cases, your treatment begins with passive treatments. These will bring you relaxation. Once your pain begins to go down, then you’ll move into more active treatments.
In most cases, your treatment begins with passive treatments. These will bring you relaxation. Once your pain begins to go down, then you’ll move into more active treatments. The following treatments are ways that we can help you get there.
- Massage — Specifically, deep tissue massage. This type of massage is for areas of muscle tension that develops because of whiplash. Your massage therapist will use friction and pressure in an effort to release tension in soft tissues to allow for faster healing.
- Temperature — Physical therapy can include the use of both, hot and cold. The use of heat brings more blood to the part of the body being worked on. In turn, it brings greater oxygen flow and nutrients to the injured area. This helps to get rid of waste created by muscle spasms while helping with healing. The use of cold decreases circulation. We do this to reduce spasms, inflammation, and pain. Most likely, treatment will include both hot and cold, going back and forth between the two.
- Ultrasound — Sound waves create deep heat therapy that is applied to the soft tissues and joints. This is like a mini massage for soft tissues and joints. This may be used to help reduce back pain, stiffness, and spasms – in addition to increasing blood flow and accelerating the healing process.
- Patient education. Depending on the individual patient, a variety of lifestyle modifications, including diet and nutritional programs, self-care, and coping strategies, may be recommended.
In Motion Physical Therapy
Don’t let pain — even mild pain — take over your life. Neglecting to get treatment for whiplash may lead to some long-term issues. In Motion Physical Therapy is here to help. Keep in mind that every situation is unique. Most of the time, people recover from whiplash within three months. If you are experiencing pain from a new — or even old — car accident, call us at In Motion Physical Therapy and we’ll help you to live pain-free. Call our office within Legacy Health for a free phone consultation at 208-522-2591.