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The Whiplash Puzzle: Part 5 – Exercise

Updated: Sep 9, 2023


Exercise plays a pivotal role in the rehabilitation process for Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD). There is compelling evidence indicating that the combined approach of exercise and manual therapy, including manipulation or mobilization, significantly aids in pain reduction and enhancing mobility post-WAD.


In the initial stages, it's vital that exercises are executed within a comfortable range of motion to avoid triggering abnormal neurological motor responses (central sensitization) and to allow tissue repair to take place. It's crucial to remember that while injured tissue requires time for remodelling, the absence of an appropriate exercise regimen increases the risk of further injury and prolonged pain.


The prescribed exercises will vary, taking into consideration the patient's specific needs and the severity of their injury. Furthermore, providing personalized recommendations for the patient's Activities of Daily Living (ADL) such as the application of ice or heat, optimal sleeping positions, and other relevant advice can expedite the recovery process.

 

Demonstration of Exercises for Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD)


The subsequent videos provide a glimpse into the types of exercises we typically suggest to our patients. However, the actual exercises prescribed would depend on the specific injuries of each patient. As a general guideline, we initially concentrate on enhancing mobility, then we introduce strengthening exercises, and eventually incorporate functional exercises that focus on balance and proprioception. Inclusion of low-intensity aerobic exercise can also aid in accelerating the rehabilitation process.


Please note: These videos serve solely as demonstrations and should not be regarded as specific case recommendations.


Mobility and Flexibility Exercises


Stretching and mobility exercises are crucial elements in the rehabilitation process for patients suffering from whiplash injuries. Whiplash trauma often results in a rapid and forceful movement of the neck and shoulders, leading to muscle strains, ligament sprains, joint dysfunction, and a decrease in overall mobility. This can cause stiffness, pain, and a limited range of motion, impacting the individual's daily activities and quality of life.


Incorporating stretching and mobility exercises into a treatment plan can help restore flexibility, improve range of motion, and reduce pain. Stretching exercises help elongate the shortened or stiff muscles and ligaments, alleviating tension and discomfort. Meanwhile, mobility exercises help to improve joint function and movement. Together, these exercises can help promote healthier movement patterns, enhance posture, and reduce the risk of future injuries.


5 Minute Neck Pain Relief

Welcome to our "5 Minute Neck Pain Relief" exercise guide, designed to provide you with effective, quick relief from neck discomfort. This simple routine, which should be performed 3 to 4 times per day, is tailored to help alleviate pain, increase mobility, and promote overall neck health. Whether you are experiencing neck strain from poor posture, tension headaches, or simply want to maintain a healthy cervical spine, these exercises will offer valuable support.


PNF Neck Stretches - Mobility, Strength and Power

Studies indicate that PNF stretching techniques are efficient in boosting and sustaining flexibility, augmenting muscular strength and force, and elevating athletic performance. If you are suffer from an injury please ask your physician if these exercises are appropriate for your specific case.


Pain Relief For Problem Headaches

In this video "Pain Relief For Problem Headaches," we show you a great way to resolve your headache. This Headache Relief video shows you how to release trigger points at the base of your skull, the Suboccipital region. Releasing this area is a key aspect of resolving headaches.


6 Effective Jaw Release Exercises

Patients who experience whiplash injuries often have jaw problems. The subsequent video demonstrates how to carry out six exercises specifically designed for Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, a condition often associated with whiplash. These exercises align with those we prescribe to our patients following our implementation of Motion Specific Release - MSR procedures for TMJ issues. (53)


 

Strengthening exercises


Strengthening exercises are a vital component in the recovery process from whiplash injuries. The abrupt, forceful movement that characterizes whiplash often causes the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back to stretch beyond their normal range, leading to strain or even tearing. As a result, the muscles may weaken, lose their normal functioning, and may not be able to provide the necessary support for the head and neck.


By incorporating targeted strengthening exercises into a treatment plan, we can gradually rebuild the strength and resilience of these weakened muscles. These exercises not only aid in relieving current pain and discomfort, but they also play a crucial role in preventing future injuries. They enhance muscular endurance, improve posture, and increase the stability of the neck, making it more resistant to the forces that initially caused the whiplash. Consequently, strengthening exercises are an essential tool in restoring the full function of the neck and upper back after a whiplash injury.


Neck Strengthening Exercises That Work

Neck and Shoulder exercises are essential to correct bad posture. What you need are neck-strengthening exercises that actually work! A strong mobile neck can go a long way in preventing future injuries and in completely resolving an injury that already exists. Neck strengthening is also incredibly important for postural improvement.


 

Nerve Flossing Exercises


Nerve flossing exercises can be an important component of a treatment plan for patients suffering from whiplash injuries. Whiplash injuries often involve abrupt, forceful movements that can lead to stretching or compression of nerves in the neck, upper back, and surrounding regions. This can result in peripheral nerve entrapment, which may cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected areas.


Nerve flossing exercises, also known as neural mobilization or gliding exercises, aim to gently mobilize and stretch the entrapped nerves. This can help alleviate the pressure and inflammation surrounding the nerves and promote optimal nerve function. By incorporating nerve flossing exercises into a rehabilitation program, patients may experience improved range of motion, reduced pain, and enhanced overall function in the affected regions.


The following videos demonstrate examples of nerve flossing exercises that could be prescribed to patients with whiplash injuries. These exercises cover multiple regions of the body that could be involved in a whiplash accident, addressing the diverse symptoms that may arise from such an injury. It is important to note that these exercises should be tailored to each individual's specific needs and performed under the guidance of a trained professional.


Median Nerve Flossing

In this video, we demonstrate how to perform median nerve gliding exercises, designed to free the median nerve from surrounding tissues. These exercises are especially beneficial for those with whiplash injuries that have developed complications such as median nerve entrapment, which is often associated with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or other nerve impingement syndromes.


Releasing Entrapments of the Spinal Accessory Nerve

This video demonstrates how to perform exercises to alleviate entrapments of the Spinal Accessory Nerve. Whiplash injuries often impact this nerve, which is integral to the functioning of the neck and shoulder. Entrapment of this nerve can lead to neck and shoulder pain, hence these exercises can be particularly beneficial for whiplash recovery.

Sciatic Nerve and Spinal Nerve Root Flossing

Whiplash injuries often result in low back pain and, in some cases, sciatica-like symptoms. The following video demonstrates exercises aimed at relieving sciatic and lower back pain. These procedures help release tension on the spinal cord and the sciatic nerve by employing nerve flossing techniques. This can effectively target entrapment of spinal nerve roots and the sciatic nerve, offering relief to those suffering from whiplash-related pain.


 

Conclusion

"Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) are intricate injuries that require a comprehensive approach to treatment for effective resolution. Here are some important considerations to ensure optimal recovery:

  1. Choose a practitioner well-versed in the biomechanics of whiplash injuries. This is crucial not only for successful treatment but also in navigating potential legal proceedings. Since practitioners may need to testify about the injury and its long-term impact, having a knowledgeable and qualified professional on your side is essential.

  2. A thorough examination, including a detailed history, orthopedic and neurological assessments, and necessary imaging, is a must. Comprehensive documentation of all aspects of the examination, including a subjective pain assessment and a neck disability index, is also important from a medical-legal standpoint.

  3. A multidisciplinary approach yields the best results. A professional experienced in treating WAD should address both soft-tissue and joint injuries. Opt for a proficient musculoskeletal practitioner (Chiropractor, Physiotherapist, Registered Massage Therapist) with proven experience. Furthermore, pain management is often an essential component of recovery, as high levels of pain can hinder therapy, prescribed exercises, and sleep. Consultation with a medical practitioner for appropriate medication can significantly aid in progression and optimal recovery.

  4. Exercise is not an option, but a requirement for full recovery from WAD. The exercise regimen should be tailored to individual needs and consider three primary stages: acute, recovery, and functional rehabilitation, including neuromuscular re-education. It's also vital to equip the patient with exercises they can perform as part of a home exercise program.

While WAD is complex, it can be successfully managed with the right approach. Understanding your options is key to achieving the best possible outcomes."


 

DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC. - The Author


Dr. Abelson is committed to running an evidence-based practice (EBP) incorporating the most up-to-date research evidence. He combines his clinical expertise with each patient's specific values and needs to deliver effective, patient-centred personalized care.


As the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, Dr. Abelson operates a clinical practice in Calgary, Alberta, under Kinetic Health. He has authored ten publications and continues offering online courses and his live programs to healthcare professionals seeking to expand their knowledge and skills in treating musculoskeletal conditions. By staying current with the latest research and offering innovative treatment options, Dr. Abelson is dedicated to helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness.

 

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