Exercise for Whiplash

By Sally Ann Quirke | Filed under: Whiplash

Whiplash - when is it safe to exercise

Patients who suffer from whiplash are often eager to start exercises to relieve their pain as soon as they can.

“When should I exercise following my whiplash injury?” - it is a frequently asked question in my physiotherapy practice.

  • The simple answer is that as long as you have no fracture or displaced unstable segments - then I advise gentle movement from the outset. It is only when there is an unstable segment or a fracture that I advise immobilisation with the use of a collar.

  • Collars should be avoided where possible as they have a weakening effect in the long term. Again this is where you need expert advice with regard to appropriate exercises, so seek an expert local Physiotherapist opinion.

  • It is generally safe to move your neck and upper back in all directions that do not hurt from the outset. I recommend all movements of your neck outside of pain - that is I do not recommend moving through pain at the early stages. If - after approximately one week - you cannot move your neck and upper back in all directions without pain then you need to seek help with mobilisation and stabilisation therapy.

I would like to explain why to you. If your neck hurts when turning to the right for example then there is a reason for this. It may be a damaged ligament or muscle or it may be a displaced joint. These movement dysfunctions require attention and correction from the appropriate therapist and treatment technique.

Early intervention and correction will result in a better resolution to your symptoms. “If in doubt shout”.

To summarise exercises for whiplash and whiplash-related injuries, it involves early movement within a pain free range from the outset once unstable segments have been eliminated.

Subsequently I use exercises to facilitate range of movement and to strengthen weakened muscles around your neck and back to prevent further pain and stiffness from potentially resulting from neglect. It can be months and years later when these secondary problems evolve. Prevention is always better than cure.

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