As snow falls and ice covers our roadways, the number of motor vehicle accidents increases dramatically. One common injury resulting from such accidents is cervical whiplash.
Cervical whiplash is a quick stretching or tearing of the neck muscles due to rapid motion of the head and neck. This is most commonly seen when one vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle, even at low speeds. Muscle trauma can occur in an accident with speeds under 10 mph.
The onset of symptoms may occur immediately or up to two weeks after an accident, according to Jeff Kirchmyer, PT, co-owner of ProActive Sports Rehab. Accident victims may experience symptoms including neck, jaw and shoulder pain; headaches; dizziness; decrease range of neck motion and more. Concussions can also occur.
Immediately following an accident, it’s best to apply cold packs to the neck area for 15 minutes (remember to use a towel between the cold pack and the skin). It is recommended to see your physician after a motor vehicle accident. X-rays or MRI/CT scans may be needed for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Once properly diagnosed, it may be necessary to see a physical therapist to speed up recovery time and return you to your normal activities. At physical therapy, you can expect your therapist to set up an individualized program for you. This will involve improving range of motion through stretching and gradual strengthening of the neck and back muscles. Your physical therapist may also use heat or cold packs, ultrasound, vestibular therapy for dizziness and manual stretching.
ASTYM is also an extremely useful tool used to decrease muscle knots and tightness and speed up recovery time. ASTYM is a regenerative soft tissue therapy that rebuilds and heals the soft tissues of the body, eliminating pain and restoring movement.
To help prevent whiplash, make sure your vehicles head support is directly behind your head at the level of your ears. Increased injuries can occur if your head support is too low, and always be sure to wear your seatbelt.
For more information on injuries requiring the services of a trained physical therapist, please contact ProActive Sports Rehab for a consultation. ProActive has offices at 4535 Southwestern Blvd. (Suites 805 and 806) in Hamburg and 240 Red Tail (Suites 3 and 4) in Orchard Park, in the Sterling Medical Park. They can be reached at 648-8700 (Hamburg) or 674-9600 (Orchard Park).