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Whiplash Motor Vehicle Accidents

Today I want to discuss whiplash.  What is whiplash? How many people get Whiplash?  What are typical recovery rates for whiplash? There are so many reasons to want to avoid getting in a car accident.  But until we all are riding in Self-Driving cars, accidents cannot be avoided.  And, with accidents comes whiplash. I myself have only been in accidents that were at very low speeds and have not ever had whiplash myself.  But, during my 18 years as a physical therapist I have treated many people with whiplash. Almost all of them were hit by someone else, and were usually hit from behind.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is generally described as neck pain and disability that results after a quick jerky movement of the neck, which frequently occurs in a car accident.  People with whiplash tend to have difficulty turning their neck, holding their head up, and may have severe neck pain and headaches. The Mayo Clinic says, “Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.”  I’m not sure why the Mayo Clinic says that most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks. Several studies show the difficulty of treating whiplash is that it doesn’t seem to improve much. One study  says that 80% of those with whiplash are still seeking medical care six months after their accident. It has been my experience that many people avoid getting care because they hope it will just go away. We will see them months or sometimes a year after their accident and they are still having neck pain. I cringe sometimes inside when I see this and think to myself, “how much sooner could they have started improving had they come to see us right after the accident?” At Muscle IQ we help people a day after the accident or even a year later!  I will discuss later how we do this.

How Many People Get Whiplash?

A  study  from 2007 summarizes well how many people get whiplash:

Whiplash is the most common traffic injury, affecting 83% of individuals involved in motor vehicle collisions.   In 2000, whiplash was the most common emergency department–treated motor vehicle injury in the US.  

There is a push in medical research to figure out how all of these whiplash victims should be treated.  There is no consensus on the best protocol for care. A recent study reviewed this literature and concluded that most results from these types of studies are weak or very weak.

There are some indications that exercise helps.

I would say exercise helps, but it needs to be light, and it needs to be gradual.  There is a point where pain during exercise will actually shut down the muscles from contracting.  So, here at Muscle IQ we watch patients very carefully when prescribing exercises. Our combination of manual therapy and therapeutic exercise helps us relieve pain, increase motion, and helps the patient return to more activity.  During our manual therapy we assess the function of the neck muscles with active movements and muscle testing. Our daily assessing allows us to modify our treatments to be exactly what the patient needs and to see how things are progressing.  Our therapeutic exercises include exercises with our David Machines.

The David machine exercises provide just the right controls to protect the patient from too much weight and too much movement.  The program focuses on high repetition and low resistance. The exercise develops muscle control as the patient tries to keep time with the pacer and stay within the box while moving back and forth.  The visual feedback on the screen helps the patient develop coordination and control, which is something that whiplash victims lack. Response time of neck muscles after a whiplash injury is usually delayed and slower than normal. With the use of the David Machines we can get you back up to speed!

Show me the numbers!

Each of our patients receives a personalized assessment that objectively shows their current status and their progress.  We would say the best protocol is the one that helps an individual patient become pain-free and return to normal muscle strength.  At muscle IQ our whiplash patients are tested with the David Machines and are shown how their neck muscles are doing compared to normal muscles.

Each patient can see their progress with the colorful reports we print at each re-evaluation day.  The report shows where they were when they first started and where they are now. It shows how much their strength has changed and how close they are to normal strength.  We have the numbers!

Whiplash is a very common injury.  It happens frequently with car accidents.  If you have been in an accident and you are still having neck pain, or headaches, and it just doesn’t seem to be going away, you should come see us.  Muscle IQ specializes in the rehabilitation of whiplash and injuries from accidents. For more information visit our Auto Accidents  page at or Call Us at 801-310-0851.


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