Whiplash-Associated Disorder: Recover With PT

neck pain physical therapy

Physical Therapy and Whiplash-Associated Disorder: How Physical Therapy Can Help


Whiplash-associated disorders (WADs) are a prevalent issue following motor vehicle collisions, causing pain, stiffness, headaches, dizziness, and other debilitating symptoms. It can be challenging for those affected to perform daily activities, let alone resume work or hobbies.

Thankfully, for those struggling with WADs, physical therapy is an effective supportive approach for treating the disorder and improving one’s quality of life. Physical therapy helps alleviate pain and stiffness while improving range of motion, strength, and flexibility.

What to Expect at Physical Therapy

Attending physical therapy sessions is crucial for individuals with whiplash-associated disorders (WADs). The primary goal is to alleviate the symptoms associated with the disorder to improve the range of motion and overall function. To achieve this, your physical therapist will create a personalized treatment plan that accounts for individual needs and limitations. The regimen may include exercises specifically tailored to your condition such as stretching and strengthening exercises, posture education, and modalities like heat or ice application, and/or ultrasound therapy.

Your therapist may also use manual techniques such as joint mobilizations or massages to help reduce pain and increase mobility. Besides, they will provide education on proper positioning during activities of daily living (e.g., sitting, or sleeping positions) to ensure you remain comfortable throughout your day-to-day activities. By working with a physical therapist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, you can improve your symptoms, restore your range of motion, and help you return to your normal activities.

Types of Exercises You Might Do

The exercises prescribed by your physical therapist are tailored specifically to your unique needs; however, there are certain types of exercises that may be included in your treatment plan based on research findings:

  • Neck stretching exercises – These types of stretches help improve the range of motion while reducing pain associated with WADs; they can also help prevent scar tissue formation which can limit movement if left untreated
  • Strengthening exercises – Increasing strength around the neck and shoulder muscles can aid in supporting the head and spine while helping to prevent further injury
  • Postural retraining – Learning how to stand or sit correctly can help improve posture which can go a long way in assisting with reducing pain associated with WADs
  • Balance training – Improving balance can assist in stabilizing twitching neck muscles which often occur due to this type of disorder

How Long Does Recovery Take?

Recovery times vary greatly depending on many factors such as the severity level of injury and the individual’s progress throughout physical therapy treatments. Generally speaking though most people start noticing improvements within 4-6 weeks following their initial assessment. Some patients may need more time depending on how severe their condition is but generally, if someone actively participates in their therapeutic program significant gains should be seen within 6 months.


Untreated whiplash-associated disorders may lead to chronic pain, making professional treatment critical. Seek physical therapy for an individualized treatment plan that helps you get back to activities you love without lingering discomfort from motor vehicle collision injuries.