Video Series: Exercises for Whiplash

Three easy neck stretches and exercises to help ease neck pain and stiffness sometimes causes by a whiplash injury.

What exercises help relieve whiplash pain?
Whiplash is a spinal injury that damages the soft tissues in your cervical spine (neck). Simple exercises and stretches can help your spine heal from this injury, but you shouldn’t stop there. Continuing to do these activities after your symptoms fade can help make your neck strong, flexible, and mobile—and that may help prevent future pain.

To help aid your whiplash recovery, your spine specialist may recommend 3 neck stretches: chin tucks, side-to-side head rotation, and side bending. The videos above will show you how to properly perform these stretches, and you can read more details about safely exercising with whiplash below.

Chin Tucks

Purpose: To stretch the muscles in your cervical spine and promote good posture.

How to perform a chin tuck in a lying down position:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. As you look toward the ceiling, move your chin toward your chest.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds. You should feel a comfortable stretch from your neck to the base of your head.
  4. Repeat this stretch up to 10 times.

How to perform a chin tuck in a seated position:

  1. Use correct sitting posture.
  2. Looking forward, move your head backward so your chin is tucked down. Nothing beneath your head should move.
  3. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat this stretch up to 10 times.

Chin tuck exercise.Chin tucks can be performed lying down or while seated and can help ease a stiff neck.

Side-to-Side Head Rotation

Purpose: To decrease tightness in the sides and back of your neck, and increase mobility in your neck.

How to perform a side-to-side head rotation in a lying down position:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Rotate your chin toward your right shoulder. You may use your hand to gently pull your head further into the stretch.
  3. Hold for 20 seconds.
  4. Rotate your chin toward your left shoulder. You may use your hand to move your head further into the stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat the stretch 3 to 5 times on each side.

How to perform a side-to-side head rotation in a seated position:

  1. Make sure you are seated with good posture.
  2. Rotate your chin toward your right shoulder. You may use your hand to gently pull your head deeper into the stretch.
  3. Hold for 20 seconds.
  4. Rotate your chin toward your left shoulder. You may use your hand to pull your head deeper into the stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat the stretch 3 to 5 times on each side.

Man sitting in an office performing head rotation exercise.Gently moving your head from side to side can help relieve tight neck muscles and improve flexibility and movement.

Side Bending

Purpose: To relieve a stiff neck or tightness in the sides of your neck and increase neck flexibility and mobility.

How to perform a side bending stretch in a lying down position:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Move your head to the right, bringing your right ear close to your right shoulder. You may use your hand to gently pull your head deeper into the stretch.
  3. Hold for 20 seconds.
  4. Repeat on your left side, lowering your head so your left ear moves closer to your left shoulder. You may use your hand to pull your head deeper into the stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.

How to perform a side bending stretch in a seated position:

  1. Make sure you are seated with good posture.
  2. Lower your right ear toward your right shoulder. You may use your hand to gently pull your head deeper into the stretch.
  3. Hold for 20 seconds.
  4. Lower your left ear toward your left shoulder. You may use your hand to pull your head deeper into the stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.

Woman in an office performing a side stretch exercise while seated.Slow and gentle side bending of your neck toward your shoulder can help stretch tight muscles and improve flexibility of your cervical spine.How do these exercises reduce whiplash pain?
When the soft tissues in your cervical spine have been damaged by whiplash, you may experience neck pain and an inability to move your neck as much or as comfortably as you did before the injury. These exercises are designed ease whiplash symptoms by lengthening and strengthening your neck muscles, while promoting healthy posture and greater range of motion.

When your neck muscles are strong and flexible, they are better able to support the weight of your skull and your cervical joints—and that can help reduce your pain.

Can exercising with whiplash hurt me?
Your spine specialist may recommend avoiding exercise immediately (24 to 48 hours) after your whiplash injury. Use that initial period to relax, and use an ice pack to help alleviate swelling and pain. After a few days, your doctor may recommend that you switch between heat and ice (about 20 minutes of each); the heat will help the tissues heal by boosting circulation to the area.

  • Before doing these or any other neck stretches or exercises, get your spine specialist’s approval first.

Whiplash is a spinal injury that requires extra care and consideration when exercising, so keep you doctor in the loop with your activity plan to avoid causing further damage.

Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist to help you safely stretch and exercise while recovering from a whiplash injury. Physical therapy for whiplash will teach you the ideal activities to promote neck healing, and your physical therapist will give you all the information you need to safely stretch and exercise on your own. Once you’re whiplash injury is healed, you can continue doing those stretches and exercises to condition your muscles for long-term neck health.

Finally, exercise is excellent for your spine, but pushing yourself too far can have the opposite effect. Take things slow and steady. Going too far outside your comfort zone may stress and strain your cervical spine, potentially aggravating your whiplash injury. A focus on consistency (that is, doing gentle stretching every day) and proper form is the best way to get the benefits of exercise for a healthy neck. If you experience increased or new pain or other symptoms (eg, numbness and tingling) during or immediately after exercising, talk to your spine specialist right away.

Continue Reading … What is Whiplash?

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