If you have experienced whiplash, you may be able to relieve the pain in your neck with rest, over-the-counter medications, and ice or heat. But if these home remedies aren't enough, physical therapy may be what you need.
by Aaron Mackley, PT,
Lancaster General Health
Whiplash is commonly associated with car accidents, especially rear-end collisions. But it can occur anytime the neck is forcefully flexed forward and then rebounds backward, placing excessive stress on the muscles and ligaments.
You might not feel any pain or soreness immediately. In fact, symptoms can take several days to appear. The usual symptoms include pain, soreness, stiffness, decreased ability of move your neck normally, muscle tenderness around the neck, and possible headaches.
Ways to treat whiplash
Management of a a mild or moderate whiplash injury can include rest, application of ice or heat, and taking over-the-counter pain medication. A neck brace is also useful to help support your head and allow your neck muscles to rest.
Once your pain is under control, you'll want to work on restoring your neck's range of motion with gentle stretching exercises, such as rotating your head from side to side and moving your neck backward and forward.
For acute whiplash, the first priority to is to control and reduce pain with ice, ultrasound, and perhaps prescription medication. Your doctor may refer you to physical therapy for a structured rehabilitation program. The goal of physical therapy is to restore normal strength to your neck and surrounding muscles so that you can return to normal activity.
If you need physical therapy, you'll be evaluated to assess the possible causes for your pain, any limitations you may be experiencing, the use of different modalities for pain, manual therapy to help restore your normal motion and neck mechanics, and exercises to restore strength and range of motion.
Aaron Mackley, PT, DPT, ABC, BFD, has been a physical therapist for 11 years, practicing in orthopedic and industrial rehabilitation settings. With a clinical doctorate in physical therapy, he specializes in neck and back pain patients. He's also been a competitive cyclist for about 15 years competing in mountain, cyclocross and road races.