“Whiplash” injuries are defined as sudden acceleration-deceleration of the head resulting in damage to the cervical spine. While most common in motor vehicle accidents (MVA), whiplash can occur as a result of other high-speed activities such as sports. Usually characterized by long-standing chronic neck pain and disability, studies have shown that patients with whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) have specific patterns of muscle weakness and tightness. Exercise for whiplash and neck pain have been shown effective. Previous research by Dr. Jari Ylinen in Finland has shown that Thera-Band® resistance band exercises are effective at reducing chronic neck pain for up to 2 years. Click here to view Dr. Ylinen’s Thera-Band resistance band exercise protocol here.
Researchers in Norway wanted to compare 2 types of exercise programs on patients with whiplash. 25 patients were randomly assigned to a strength and endurance group or a “motor control” exercise group during 6 weeks of physical therapy. The motor control group performed 10 repetitions of deep neck flexor activation against an inflatable blood pressure cuff. The strengthening group used elastic bands to strengthen their neck muscles and dumbbells to strengthen the upper body. Each exercise was performed for 1 set of 15 to 20 repetitions; each session included a 5 minute warm-up and cool down period.
Both groups significantly improved their disability levels approximately 60%; there was no significant difference between the groups. About half of the patients in each group obtained clinically important improvements at 6 weeks and 1 year after the exercise program. Some subjects did not maintain improvements at 1 year, suggesting exercises must be continued.
Whlie the findings are encouraging, the study was limited by a lack of control group and small sample size. Thera-Band elastic resistance can be used to improve pain and disability in chronic neck pain patients.
Reference: Ask T et al. 2009. The effect of two exercise regimes; motor control versus endurance/strength training for patients with whiplash-associated disorders: a randomized controlled pilot study. Clin Rehabil: 23(9):812-23.