… So you hit a deer, or a car hit you, or you slid into a pole. You may have whiplash. This article is for those people who have been seen in the ER and sent home with a diagnosis of whiplash, or feel that aren’t hurt bad enough to warrant an Emergency Room visit. If you are at all concerned about your symptoms, please see your doctor. This article is speaking about the muscle and soft tissue injuries that can occur with whiplash. These are some tips you can use immediately after the injury. It is best you see a physiotherapist for treatment, but these are some things to start with until your appointment.
During a collision, your head is moved suddenly on your neck. The muscles, ligaments, and soft tissues in your neck are not prepared for these sudden movements, and can get overstretched, or strained and sprained. Like all acute injuries there will be inflammation and pain, and a risk of re-injury for the first 3-10 days. So for these early days, you might have to modify your job task or hours, rest your neck, avoid lifting, avoid leaning over where your neck muscles have to support your head-your head and brain weigh approximately 11 pounds. This first time frame is all about resting your neck ligaments and muscles.
Resting your neck for the first few days is very helpful to healing. I suggest after you have been up and about-possibly to work, or doing home chores, to lie flat on your back with ice under your neck for 10 minutes. This means usually with one pillow only-you shouldn’t feel “propped up on pillows”. That position actually pushes your head and neck forward-more overstretching. Just a reminder that our body doesn’t stay strong if we rest too much, so keep this limited to the first few days.
There are often things we do that we don’t realize can cause strain to your neck.
- Carrying anything over about 7 lbs will cause strain to the neck muscles. Choose carefully what you carry, and whatever you do have to carry, use 2 hands and keep it close to your chest. If you carry bags in one hand for example, that bag is pulling down on those muscles that have been already overstretched.
- Be aware of how you are sitting both at work, and while driving. During both activities we are concentrating, and often leaning forward. You might have to adjust your seat to have more back support, and head support.
- After a shower, wearing a damp towel on your wet hair adds weight to your head that your neck muscles aren’t up to supporting. Or vigorously shaking your head to style and dry your hair is too aggressive for the neck.
- Changing the laundry can be a challenge for the neck-either pulling wet, heavy jeans out of a washer, to looking into that front loading washer to make sure you got all the socks. You may have to ask for help with these tasks or make the loads smaller or get right down on your hands and knees to look into the washer.
- Unsupported leaning forward or prolonged looking down makes the neck muscles work hard to hold your head up. Tasks that require this are bathing children in the tub, doing dishes, wiping muddy dog feet, reaching down into the freezer. Frequently our leisure activities have us looking down for long periods, such as texting and playing games on our devices, reading, sewing, doing puzzles.
- In Alberta climates, there is snow in the winter. Those first couple of weeks, I would suggest getting help pushing the grocery cart through the snowy parking lot-when we feel good, we don’t realise the effort moving one of those carts takes and it’s especially worse after a fresh snowfall. Also asking for help with shovelling is a good idea-lots of leaning forward looking down, and lifting with shovelling.
So make sure in those first few days after an accident you rest your neck, and make an appointment to see a physiotherapist. Our staff at Pursuit Physiotherapy would be happy to help you get back to your normal function, strength, and comfort level.
Posted by Leanne Schlachter