If you’ve been in a car accident or experienced any kind of head or upper body impact trauma, chances are you also experienced some form of whiplash, whether mild or extreme.
What exactly is whiplash?
*Please note I am not trying to diagnose anyone! These are common experiences of people who have experienced or been diagnosed with whiplash or associated pain by a medical professional before coming to see me.
Most of the time we think of car accidents when we think of whiplash, but after 8 years of working with people in pain I think it can be applied to anything from falling while snowboarding or skiing, to contact sports like football or being dropped on your head if you’re a dancer or acro yogi.
It is my opinion that the body’s reaction to this kind of impact trauma is almost always the same, regardless of how it happened: the biceps and/or chest muscles will instinctively react with a powerful contraction to protect your neck from snapping (backwards or forwards), which has the potential to kill you instantly. This is our body’s way of protecting us from death!
I see the MAIN cause of resulting pain post-trauma coming from all the muscles and fascia AROUND the neck staying in a tightly contracted state, which will certainly cause a lot of neck pain and other issues often associated with whiplash.
The problem is NOT your neck:
Most people who complain of whiplash point to their neck as the source of the pain, and often it is our instinct to go to a chiropractor for a neck adjustment or a massage therapist who will massage and relax our shoulder and neck muscles. And, while these things may very well be beneficial (and I am certainly not telling you NOT to see your preferred specialist), it has been my overwhelming experience that a lot of the time these things do not address the cause of the lasting pain that lingers POST accident…and thus, they do not eliminate the pain.
The SOURCE of lingering pain is typically in the biceps but especially the chest. I believe that sometimes these muscles don’t realize the danger is over in the weeks, months or even years post-accident, and because they are still in a state of extreme contraction there is unnecessary tension put on the neck as it is now being pulled forward 24/7.
Ancillary and certainly important areas to address that would ALSO contract in an effort to protect us would be the anterior neck muscles such as the SCM’s and scalenes. But my top choices for the fastest relief are to release the biceps and chest.
People who complain of whiplash often report other debilitating issues such as headaches, vertigo, nausea, ringing in the ears, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, limited range of motion in the neck and/or inability to turn the head left or right, shoulder pain and even low back pain.
If you have even mild lingering pain post impact or accident, and even if you DON’T but you suspect there is tightness in your biceps or chest, it is definitely a good idea to get these taken care of sooner rather than later so you don’t end up in more pain down the road from compensatory patterns. I’ve worked on clients who’s chest muscles and fascia were still in a super tight locked state DECADES after an accident!
Please note that this post isn’t meant to be a fully comprehensive solution to whiplash, which might require a lot more techniques and body parts than I’m suggesting here, including going into the neck AFTER the front stuff is taken care of. For example, if a client came to me complaining of whiplash pain, I would release the fascia in their ENTIRE upper body, starting with their forearms and working my way up to their neck and shoulders LAST.
If you have limited time or want a few simple solutions to begin finding relief…
DO THIS FIRST:
Release your biceps first. Click here for that post and video.
THEN DO THIS:
Release your chest or pec muscles (especially pec minor) and front deltoid. Click here for that post.
If you want to do MORE:
I would recommend adding in my SCM and scalene release, which can be found by clicking here.
There are plenty of other options for techniques to use to target the pain associated with whiplash or traumatic impact injuries, but the possibilities are far too numerous to go into in a single post. Use the Search feature in the right sidebar to find what you need if you know which areas you want to release, and if you have questions…please comment on the post or send me an email.