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The 5 Best Exercises to do After Whiplash

Last updated: June 7, 2022

Whiplash can be one of the most common and dangerous head injuries that most people experience in their lifetime. Whiplash pain and symptoms may not occur for minutes, hours, or even up to a few days after the traumatic incident. The muscles and ligaments in the neck may seem alright, but your body is adapting to the pain by releasing adrenaline to stave off further danger while attempting to immediately remedy the situation. Whiplash can turn into an extremely lingering issue if left untreated and is often fixed with a combination of physical therapy, diet, and a tailored and rehabilitative proper workout routine.

Below, we will first take a look at the most common ways that whiplash can occur in the neck and the common symptoms this can include. We will also list the 5 best exercises to perform to both reconstruct and strengthen your neck and back muscles from further injury or movement.

What Causes Whiplash?

Whiplash is a term for when the neck muscles and joints extend past where they are able (hyperextension) and then snap back and over (hyperflexion). There are various degrees of symptoms, mostly including neck pain, loss of range of motion, numbness, muscle aches and pains, headaches, and in extreme cases a fracture or cervical dislocation.

Whiplash is often the result of a rear-end collision but can happen as a result of abuse, exercise/sports injury, or an extremely fast amusement ride.

The Best Whiplash Treatment Exercises

Chin tucks

Chin tucks help to stretch the muscles at the top of your spine. This movement is most commonly done when seated or standing, but could also be adjusted and done lying down for those with more severe symptoms.

Instructions: Either stand or sit in a straight position, aligning your body (and spine, most importantly) to the ground or chair seat. Take your index and middle finger and gently press on your chin, moving it toward your chest. At the climax of the motion's range, you should feel a satisfying stretch in the back of your neck. Repeat until the muscle starts to get sore or slightly "on fire".

Head rotation

Lateral head rotation helps to increase the mobility of the neck by providing flexibility to the side-to-side motion associated with turning the neck to face in different directions. For this exercise, it is best to remain seated.

Instructions: Start in a comfortable chair, preferably one that has an upright backseat and can support your entire shoulder weight and spinal column. Gently rotate your head to look to one side, making sure not to move your chest, arms, or torso in the process. You should feel a good stretch in the soft tissue of your neck. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side and bring yourself back to the resting position. Repeat 5 times on each side or until sore.

Side bending

Another important exercise for targeting the mobility of the neck is to extend your neck to your shoulder. This helps to release the tension in the side of your neck and allows it to engage more of the muscles and connective tissues.

Instructions: Start in a sitting or standing position and remember to be in a correct and upright position. If sitting in a chair, remember to rest your back against a supportive seat rest so that your spinal column is properly aligned. Begin the motion by bringing your left ear down to your left shoulder. Use the same side hand (never the opposite) to gently pull your head and complete the range of motion. You should feel a good stretch on the opposite side. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat for the right side, and perform this stretch at least 5 times on either side.

Cobra

The prone cobra is a full back workout that works the shoulders, lower, upper back, and neck.

Instructions: Begin by lying down on the floor in the prone position, with your toes pointing outwards and your forehead resting on a folded tower to achieve full-body symmetry. Invert your hands so that your palms are facing the floor. Pinch your shoulders together and bring your chest, arms, and head about an inch off the floor and hold for 10 seconds. If you find it difficult to stabilize your muscles, press the roof of your mouth with your tongue to center your supine balance.

Door frame stretch

A common stretch used in most physiotherapy exercises as homework to strengthen the muscles of the chest, neck, and shoulders, while helping to align the cervical muscles around the top of your spine.

Instructions: Find a door frame or corner, ideally as wide as your body, so that you can work both shoulders at once. Place one leg in front of the other and place each forearm on each respective side of the door frame. Lean forward gently and try to push yourself incrementally past the comfort zone of your ligaments, making sure to not perform an explosive movement that may damage or dislocate tissues in your neck, chest, and shoulders. You should feel a really good stretch across your chest and anterior deltoids. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat throughout the day (every 2 or 3 hours).

FAQs

Can whiplash cause concussions?

Yes. As most concussions occur when there is a blow to the head and jolts the brain, this can come as a result of whiplash. For example, the most common occurrence of whiplash is a rear-end collision, where the neck is extended backward into the car seat and then forwards. If the whiplash also causes the person to hit the steering wheel and the seat rest hard enough, it can cause a concussion.

Will whiplash heal on its own?

Minor whiplash can heal on its own, such as slight neck pain from amusement park rides. It is still recommended to always follow a neck strengthening routine as part of a healthy workout regiment.

When to see a doctor for whiplash?

Most of the time, whiplash can be considered serious enough for medical attention, especially as a result of a car accident, sports injury, or major physical trauma.


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