If you have recently been in an incident whereby your head was forced through a movement that involved a sudden jolt forwards followed by a jarring backwards motion then you may be experiencing symptoms of whiplash. The neck pain associated with this is very painful. This mechanism of injury usually occurs as a result of a rear-end, front-end, or “T-Bone” impact from a road traffic accident. It can also occur though, from a sporting accident. Often the first reaction to a whiplash associated disorder is shock and this can cause you to not note neck pain straight away. It can take a few minutes, hours, days, or even weeks before the symptoms develop and typically they get worse before they get better. Movement of the head is often restricted and painful, the muscles at the top of the shoulders and the bottom of the neck will become tight and tender. Headaches are common and neck pain is one that you’ll notice! Sometimes there can be referred pain into the arms or tenderness across the chest from the seatbelt. As you are holding tension in the upper back the lower back will try to compensate. This can then lead to more tenderness and pain. A whiplash patient will soon learn to move the whole body to look around to avoid moving the neck and the body will be tense. This altered use of the body and the inflammation in the joints cause the muscles to work too hard in their protective role and this over activity of the muscles causes further fatigue and pain. These compensations are soon accepted by the body as ‘normal’ and then you are unable to stop this cycle of immobility and pain without following professional advice. Mechanical whiplash needs early intervention. Basically, the body in trying to protect itself, goes into a state of muscle spasm resulting in greater degrees of muscle strain and altered posture. This does not help to increase range of movement but actually creates a pattern of misuse that can take a long time to correct. The management of whiplash is a two-way process. You will need to keep moving – even if you are afraid. We will give you the re-assurance that you are safe to move and will guide and support you through a home exercise program that will be designed to regain full movement, strengthen the muscles that are weak / inactive, and restore soft tissue flexibility. We will look at exercises that can correct any postural imbalances that you may be presented with. Heat and ice, when used at the right times, can be invaluable adjuncts to the rehab process by controlling pain, spasm, and inflammation. Other interventions such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and traction can have similar value. No two cases are identical and different patients will often require different treatments even when both patients were involved in the same car accident. If you think that you may need the examination and treatment of a physical therapist, feel free to call Buffalo Back and Neck PT at 836-2225 to schedule for a consultation and learn how you can get your recovery started.