Weak Muscles and Whiplash


Whiplash, even during low speed collisions, creates great force which causes muscles, ligaments, and nerves to stretch. The injury of whiplash produces inflammation to repair the damaged tissues. Fast movements of your head and neck during repair will result in pain, so most patients become overly cautious and move their neck minimally. Unfortunately over time, the lack of muscle use sets up the difficult combination of both damaged ligaments and weak muscles. The little strength and support for the neck makes you very vulnerable to future injury where even slight movements can produces flare-ups. The patient may feel their head to be heavy and sometimes injuries can be so severe that dizziness develops due to the uneven muscle and nerve activity. This is called cervicogenic vertigo.

Strengthening Muscles to Prevent Further Damage

Few patients will address weak neck muscles for a full recovery unless prompted and explained by their doctor.  To prevent further damage to the ligaments, specific muscles need to be strengthened.  Stretching or deep tissue massage, or trigger point therapy can help loosen tight muscles and decrease pain.

The most important thing you can do is exercise the muscles on a daily basis. Especially when there is a mechanical neck disorder, studies have show exercise to be effective in whiplash treatment. A specific exercise program can be prescribed by a doctor of chiropractic, who can give special attention to you posture and x-rays, and the specifics to your injury.  Then only treatment will be effective and not risk further injury.

Exercises to Keep Spine Stable

Because the ligaments are so badly damaged in whiplash, it’s important to maintain the supporting muscles (both strong and flexible), to keep the spine stable and pain free. Exercises such as rolling the head around the shoulders should be avoided since the neck is not a ball and socket joint like the shoulder. In some directions, the joints will have excessive laxity and the muscle exercises should be done in the neutral position versus at the end range or limit.

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