Every year 2 million Americans suffer from Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) as a result of automobile accidents. Studies with high-speed cameras and sophisticated crash dummies have shown that rear-end car accidents result in the lower cervical vertebrae (lower bones in the neck) being forced into a hyperextension position (moving the vertebrae backwards). In contrast, the upper cervical vertebrae (upper bones in the neck) move rapidly into hyperflexion (moving the vertebrae forward). This traumatic movement leads to an abnormal S-shaped curve in the cervical spine during the accident. This abnormal movement leads to damage to the soft tissues that hold the cervical vertebrae together (ligaments, facet capsules, muscles). The lower back and shoulders can also be injured as the seat belt restraint puts rotating loads on the torso and spine. These insults during a car accident can lead to symptoms of WAD.

The most common symptoms associated with WAD are:

* Neck pain and stiffness

* A headache

* Shoulder pain

* Dizziness / visual changes

* Fatigue

* Jaw pain

* Arm pain / weakness

* Lower back pain

* Numbness and tingling

Recent research has shown that physical therapy may be the best choice for relieving pain, improving movement, and reducing costs associated with whiplash-associated disorders. A large-scale meta-analysis of the existing literature on mechanical neck pain from motor vehicle accidents was carried out in the Journal of Rheumatology. There was substantial evidence of stretching / strengthening exercises combined with mobilization / manipulation. Standard medical care (pain medication, surgery, and injections) had limited evidence or no long-term benefit. In addition, physical therapy treatments were cheaper and showed less long-term disability compared to standard medical care.

An article in the Emergency Medical Journal compared two groups. The first group received mobilization (practical muscle and joint work) and exercise therapy. The second group received medication and a collar. The mobilization and exercise group had significantly less neck / shoulder pain, improved headache, and a lower prevalence of all other symptoms compared to the group that received medication and a neck collar.

Another research article in the journal Spine showed lower medical costs and fewer work days for patients receiving physical therapy compared to standard medical treatments (advanced testing, medication, collar, injection, and surgery).

The scientific evidence clearly shows that the use of physical therapy in combination with standard medical care is the best choice to relieve pain, improve function and prevent chronicity in those with injuries related to car accidents.

We can help!

If pain is preventing you from doing the activities you enjoy, call Mishock Physical Therapy for a free telephone consultation (610) 327-2600. Email your questions to mishockpt@comcast.net. Visit our website to learn more about our treatment philosophy, physical therapy staff and our 7 locations in Gilbertsville, Skippack, Phoenixville, Boyertown, Limerick, Pottstown and Steiner Medical at www.mishockpt.com.

Dr. Mishock is one of the few clinicians in the state of Pennsylvania with a PhD in physical therapy and chiropractic. He has also authored two books; “Basic Training Principles: Basic Knowledge for Building the Elite Athlete”, “The Rubber Arm; Using Science to Improve Pitch Control, Improve Speed, and Prevent Elbow and Shoulder Injuries” are both available for purchase on Amazon.