Physical Therapy Advice: Neck Pain And Whiplash

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
neck pain
Aidan Jones (CC-BY-SA)

If you’ve ever been in a fender-bender, perhaps you’ve had symptoms of whiplash in the days and weeks after. But what exactly is whiplash, and how do we know if it’s actually something more serious, like a concussion? Two physical therapy experts weigh-in on the issue of neck pain and whiplash…and what you should do if you’re in pain. They also answer your physical therapy questions.

Featured in this Show

  • New Study Links Whiplash And Concussion

    People don’t have to hit their heads to get concussions. Someone can also get a concussion from the force of an injury such as whiplash, according to a new study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.

    Whiplash, a neck injury that happens when there is a strong and rapid back and forth movement of the neck, is most likely to happen when a vehicle is rear-ended and, according to the study, whiplash and concussions are likely to occur together.

    “The velocity at which your head can move when you sustain a whiplash injury is very similar to the velocity a football player’s head moves through when he sustains a concussion,” said physical therapist Jill Thein-Nissenbaum, an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

    This would explain some of the symptom’s often accompanying whiplash injuries, such as dizziness and loss of memory, she said. These patients will have a neck injury and a concussion and sometimes only one of the injuries is treated.

    “I think everyone gets so focused on the neck that we don’t always treat the concussion,” Thein-Nissenbaum said.

    The reverse is also true, when an athlete sustains a concussion they have probably sustained some form of a whiplash injury, she said.

    “We need to look at both sides of the coin in these populations,” she added.

    Treatments of these injuries should begin as soon as possible to prevent the pain from becoming chronic. Recognizing the additional injury is very important. If it lingers longer than three months, the chances of resolution drop significantly, she said.

    “We really want to get at these people early on and get them on a strengthening program, a mobility program (and) a pain control program,” Thein-Nissenbaum said.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Jill Nadeau Producer
  • Lori Thein Brody Guest
  • Jill Thein-Nissenbaum Guest

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