Whiplash - Think physical therapy! | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Whiplash – Think physical therapy!

August 14, 2012

Unfortunately many of us will be involved in a fender bender in our lives.  Depending on how we are hit we may suffer from injuries.  One of the most common injuries following a car accident is whiplash.  While whiplash may resolve on its own in 2 weeks, it may not and the best and most immediate course of action to take is physical therapy.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is the sudden backward bending of the neck and followed by the immediate forward bending of the neck.  This swift motion will cause injury to ligaments and muscles causing stiffness and pain.  There can also be various problems that are caused to the cervical vertebrae, discs and joints.

For example, the intense backward and immediately forward head motion can cause damage to the facet joints of the neck (cervical spine).  Facet joints usually have smooth surfaces but an injury to them can cause the surfaces to become rough and since many of the pain-sensing nerves are located in the facet joints of the spine, this roughness and irritation of the joints may begin to cause pain.

Facet joints of the neck (cervical spine) after they have become damaged from a car accident where someone sustained whiplash.

The neck has many nerves, bones, joints and ligaments.  All of these may become injured in a car accident, thus causing the feeling of whiplash.  The most difficult part about diagnosing whiplash is the delay of onset, you may not start to feel pain until 24 hours after the incident.  This is because it takes 24 hours for the inflammation to begin.  The complex nature of the cervical spine and the delay of onset make the exact structure causing the whiplash pain often difficult to diagnose.

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.

What do I feel when I have whiplash?

There is often pain associated with whiplash.  Depending on where the injury occured, whether it was to the muscles, nerves, ligaments or bone, will determine the length of time that it will take for you to start feeling pain.  There could be neck pain, pain down the arm, numbness and tingling in the fingers, low back pain, pain in between the shoulder blades, pain in jaw and headaches.  Whiplash may come in the form of all of these or just one of these symptoms.  Regardless, following even the most minor of car accidents, these symptoms are not to be ignored.

How is whiplash treated?

Seeking an examination by a doctor immediately following the accident is generally what is advised.  He/she can do any imaging (MRI/xrays) that would be necessary.  Following that physical therapy is most often one of the best courses of treatment.  With physical therapy, the ligaments, muscles and joints will be assisted in healing though manual therapy and gentle exercises.  It is imperative to seek out physical therapy sooner rather than later as the longer you are in pain the more time the muscles have to develop their own way of functioning.  This compensation strategy employed by the muscles, if left untreated can become worse and take longer to treat than the initial problem.

Whiplash is a serious injury that should not be overlooked or dismissed.  The sooner you seek treatment the faster you will be on your way to recovery.

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.