One of the most common injuries you might have suffered if you have been in a car accident is whiplash. The very name describes the aberrant and ferocious movements the head and neck are forced to endure: sudden hyperflexion — the head and neck going forward and then being whipped back into hyperextension. While the precise symptoms you might experience will vary depending on how and where your car is hit, what seat you are in and what you are doing at the time, the following are common pain shooting up the back of the neck and into the back of your head, headaches that can range from mild to those approaching migraine status. The fascial or connective tissue muscular wrappings may form adhesions that glue soft tissue neighbors together, attempting to prevent further injury but end up creating a significant restriction in your ability to rotate your head from side to side.
The very suddenness and unexpected nature of having another car careen into yours often create a post-traumatic tissue stress characterized by extensive guarding and hypersensitivity that is recognizable to a skillful practitioner as he/she palpates the area. I have often seen this tissue PTSD accompanied by classical PTSD with generalized anxiety and nervousness, lack of confidence and inhibited and shallow breathing. The suspensory ligaments of the lung’s pleura can often be traumatized and shortened thus impacting our respiratory freedom.
To distinguish whiplash further from being just another pain in our necks is the impact that may show up to our sense organs. These impacts can include ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and blurred or double vision. Because of both the fascial and nerve involvement, there may also be a pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and hands.
Much of the above description of whiplash suggests that this is not an easy to resolve injury. Add to all of that, our bodies are always struggling to right the position of our heads in space and this with bodies, that in the evolutionary scheme of things, have only recently become upright. Also, the chronic personal adaptations we have made with our head positions prior to the accident can impact how long it takes to unwind this trauma. For example, if you have a forward head posture (your head sitting forward of your torso) the whiplash can anchor that posture even more, and as the head whips back the forward head posture will allow for less flexibility with greater strain and pain. With such a complex injury, both the client and their healing practitioner would need patience as each layer of the trauma is unwrapped and all of the body’s compensations are structurally addressed. My original Rolf Structural Integration instructor, Emmett Hutchins, used to say that it often takes the whole 10 Session Series of Rolf work to completely resolve a whiplash.
While there are a number of modalities you might find useful to explore with a whiplash (cranial sacral, chiropractic, acupuncture, deep tissue massage, and Rolf Structural Integration — aka Rolfing) the sooner you begin the less time new compensations will have to become anchored in your body. Start your healing journey today.