Three Exercises to Address Chronic Neck Pain After Whiplash Injury
The exercises noted in this blog post should not be a substitution for a quality physical therapy assessment. If you have long-standing pain or disability after an injury to the neck you should see a physical therapist. Prior to starting an exercise routine you should check in with your doctor to be sure exercise is safe for your body.
How long should neck pain last after a car accident?
There is no right answer to this question. About 50% of people who experience neck pain after a car accident improve within three months, but the other 50% can go on to experience pain that is defined as chronic.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain can be defined a number of ways. Some use time frame to define chronic pain. For example, pain that has been persistent longer than 12 weeks can be considered chronic. Usually chronic pain is pain that is no longer related to inflammation and related to and injury that has not healed correctly.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a forceful forward and back movement of the head that can cause injury to the neck. Tissues affected can be muscles, nerves, joints, ligaments, and bone. Whiplash can also cause changes to other body systems like those that help with balance hearing, vision and cognitive processing. If you are suffering from any of these changes, consider following up with the therapists at the Whiplash Injury Treatment Center.
What are Three Exercises for Chronic Neck Pain?
1. Chin tuck
Studies show that people who have chronic neck pain after car accident have decreased activity of the deep muscles in the neck, specifically the longus coli and longus capitus. The chin tuck exercise helps to retrain these important muscles that act like the “core” of your neck. Hold 5-10 seconds, repeat 10 times.
2. Serratus wall slide
The serratus anterior muscle is a muscle that comes from the shoulder blade and wraps upward and forward to the rib cage. The serratus is a stabilizing muscle of the shoulder and studies (Helgadottir et al 2011) show that the timing of this muscle is compromised in people who have had a whiplash injury. This can lead to poor mechanics with reaching and moving the arm which can make people who have had a whiplash injury more likely to suffer a shoulder injury (Abbassain et al 2008). The serratus wall slide can be helpful for retraining this muscle. 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
3. Levator release with a ball
People who have chronic neck pain after a whiplash injury will often complain of tightness in the area where the shoulder and the neck meet. The levator scapulae is a common spot of tension. Levator release with a ball is a nice way to work on relieving tension in the neck and shoulders. You may want a towel roll under your head.
The exercises highlighted in this post should feel helpful. If you are having pain with them, stop.
Everyone’s situation is different and it can be helpful to have your body assessed by a physical therapist to be sure the proper tissues are being addressed and the appropriate exercises are being assigned. The exercises listed here should be considered a starting point, but should also be expanded upon. At the Whiplash Injury Treatment Center our therapists have advanced training in orthopedics, manual therapy, vestibular and dizziness treatment, TMJ (TMD) management, and concussion management. If you are suffering from chronic neck pain or other symptoms following a whiplash injury schedule an appointment today.
About the Author: Amanda Benson, PT, DPT, CMPT, OCS has been treating patients in the Seattle area since 2005. She has advanced training in manual therapy and in orthopedics. Amanda is one of the founding members of the Whiplash Injury Treatment Center.