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  • Mark Austin

Some Facts on Whiplash Recovery


I see quite a few chronic whiplash-related patients in my practice. I wish I could have crossed paths with them sooner!

The typical story is that they spent the first few weeks or months of their recovery lying on a treatment table rather than getting moving. Most of their sessions focused on passive pain relief treatments and they had to go back again, and again, and again.

Often, for these patients, there were concerns over what was safe and wasn't after their injury that were never addressed. This should happen in your first visit.

So, with summer approaching (this is actually when people tend to get a little more careless behind the wheel), let's look at some important points to focus on to ensure a full recovery from whiplash: Early return to movement is key. Most grade 1 and 2 cases of WAD that I see begin gentle exercises and a graduated return to their normal activities within one week after their injury. "Waiting for the pain to settle" first is a slippery slope towards a poor recovery and chronic pain. Treatment plans should focus on active rehab, not fancy machines. It's okay to use hands-on therapy and machines for some quick pain relief, but they should be the side dish, not the main course of your treatment plan. Your neck is a resilient, organic structure-- it's not as fragile as most people think!

It heals with movement and exercise. Exposing your neck to mild stressors, and challenging it with exercise will make your neck stronger and stimulate the healing process. Everyone has to ease back into things at their own pace, but most of your daily activities are safe to do.


Research shows that the biggest predictor of a poor recovery is emotional distress following the accident. This is an even bigger factor than the severity of injury! Our thoughts and perceptions influence our actions and modulate pain.Talk to someone about it! Insurance companies usually have no issue with covering mental health services after an accident. Bottom line? Drive safe(!), and if you've injured your neck, take that TENs machine off, and find a supportive physiotherapist that gets you moving. You're gonna be okay.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with a new injury, or struggling to overcome an old one, I am always accepting new patients at my Calgary physiotherapy clinic. Book in by calling me, e-mailing mark@physiobox.ca, or by clicking here. Drive safe everyone, and keep that neck healthy!

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