Physical Therapy for neck pain after an accident

Going through a car accident is a terrible experience, especially if you feel as though you are going through it alone. At the Injury Care Center, we can help! We are a team of medical professionals with the knowledge and tools to assist you with recovery and return to function.

One of the most common injuries experienced during a car accident is whiplash or neck injury. Neck injuries can range from general stiffness and inflammation around the muscles, strains or sprains throughout the surrounding regions of the neck, or herniations of the discs in the spine, in addition to various other injuries. At the Injury Care Center, we are equipped to treat all of the above-mentioned injuries including alleviating your pain and improving your motion and strength. One of the tools we use at our centers in Glenolden, Chester, and Philadelphia, is called traction. Traction can be performed manually or mechanically, with both present benefits to the patients. Although the term traction may sound daunting or a bit frightening to you, do not fear! It is a tool that our clinicians have education and training in using, and we understand how it can help you to feel better! Cervical or neck traction can be used to treat a multitude of injuries, including cervical muscle spasms, neck arthritis, cervical disc herniations, and neck muscle strains. All of these injuries can either be caused or worsened after a car accident. Let’s take some time to go over the concept of neck traction.

First, we have to get a basic understanding of the neck itself. The neck forms the top of the spine, which is essentially bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of each other with small discs in between. The discs act as cushions to absorb compression force in the spine. In addition to the vertebrae and the discs, there are nerves throughout the spine. Looking outside of the spinal area, there are various muscles that make up the neck region. Some of them also attach to the spine and our arms. Now that we have a general knowledge of what the neck area looks like, let’s go over some of the injuries that traction will help treat.

A cervical sprain or strain involves the muscles and tendons in the neck. Both injuries involve abnormal or irregular stretching of either muscles, tendons, or ligaments. This can result in overstretched tissue or tearing of tissues. Both of these injuries can lead to swelling and pain in the neck area. Arthritis of the neck is degeneration of the vertebrae. If a car accident occurs, occasionally this event will lead to increased pain and stiffness related to the already present arthritis. A muscle spasm is an involuntary or unintentional contraction or tightening of a muscle. This can sometimes feel like a cramp in your shoulders or mid back from a neck injury.

Finally, a herniation of a cervical disc is a tear on the outer side of disc causing the inside of the disc to bulge out. We will use traction to help stretch muscles as well as improve the spaces between the cervical bones which, in turn, can alleviate compression forces on the nerves and discs. Normally we use this device for about ten to twenty minutes with varying pounds of force. We will attempt to increase the poundage to about twenty pounds to achieve the optimal stretch. Depending on patient comfort, we will slowly progress each time we use the machine. While doing the actual treatment, there will be a slow pull or stretch to the neck region for a short amount of time, approximately 20-30 seconds, followed by a short period of relaxation. This also normally lasts about 20-30 seconds. The resulting periodic stretch will help to improve overall symptoms and progress you to your previous level of function.

In addition to using mechanical traction, we also incorporate manual traction for improvement in symptoms. Performing the intervention manually will allow us, as clinicians, to feel exactly how tight your muscles are and where you are suffering the most loss of motion. In addition, for those who may not be able to tolerate the mechanical version of the treatment, manual intervention may be an alternative that may be more tolerable in an acute setting.


Basically, if you are in severe pain and your accident was fairly recent, you may respond better to a manual intervention. Whether it be manually or mechanically, the staff at our various offices are equipped to treat your injuries and provide care that will focus on pain relief and overall improvement in function.


Author: Karl Russo

Today’s Date: 11/29/2018


If you would like us to evaluate your injury, please call: 877-444-2422.


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Injury Care Center
901 W. Ashland Avenue
Glenolden, Pa 19036
Phone: 610-461-6522

Injury Care Center
1502 Upland Street
Chester, Pa 19013

Injury Care Center
3300 Grant Avenue
Suite #20
Philadelphia, PA 19114