As we’ve detailed on the blog before, a whiplash injury is one of the more common injuries that people suffer during a car accident. That’s because the neck is a very sensitive place, and the jarring movement of the crash can cause you to strain the muscles in your neck. Oftentimes an accident involves coming to a quick stop, and your neck naturally continues forward, which causes the injury.
A whiplash injury can leave patients in fear of moving their neck, as many believe movement can make the condition worse. Extreme movements may exacerbate the condition, but in actuality, movement is a key component of recovery.
Whiplash and Movement
Many patients noted that they were afraid to move their neck after suffering a whiplash injury, and a recent study wanted to see how that fear impacted recovery time. For the study, researchers recruited 98 patients who had suffered a recent whiplash injury, all with varying levels of severity. Researchers tracked neck range of motion, neck disability and levels of fear of movement using two different scales. Patients were then evaluated at one, three, and six months post-injury.
After comparing functional movement ability and fear of movement throughout the study, researchers uncovered:
- Patients who were more afraid to move their neck generally had more severe neck disability and reduced range of motion, and these people needed more time for their symptoms to fully resolve.
- Patients with reduced fear of movement were more likely to be fully recovered within 6 months.
- Feeling more comfortable with an injury also helped to reduce anxiety and stress.
Researchers concluded that fear of moving your neck after a whiplash injury doesn’t allow the injured tissues to stretch. Instead, they become tense and restricted, which limits recovery. An injury physician can walk your through some safe neck stretches that can improve neck function after a whiplash injury. If you’re dealing with neck pain after a whiplash injury, don’t let your neck sit idle. Stretch your neck on a regular basis, and consult with a specialist for more recovery tips.