Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I had a car accident three years ago. Although I can move my neck okay, there are certain positions that are uncomfortable. I find myself stiffening up every time I have to look up or turn to look behind me. How can I get over this?

Answer:

You may be suffering from a condition called chronic whiplash syndrome (CWS) or chronic whiplash disorder (CWD). Patients with CWS/CWD report chronic pain, loss of motion, and disability.

There may also be a fear of movement or reinjury. This can cause a patient to become overalert or hypervigilant about pain and movement. If you think extending or rotating your neck is going to hurt, you stiffen up to avoid pain or discomfort.

A combined program of physical therapy (PT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help. The program can help restore full (painfree) motion, strength, and function. You will be given cues to breathe, relax, and focus throughout motion.

At first you have to tell yourself to use these techniques whenever you start to feel threatened by motion or certain positions. Over time, you should be able to retrain yourself to move freely without thinking about it. Karoline Vangronsveld, et al. An Experimental Investigation on Attentional Interference By Threatening Fixations of the Neck in Patients with Chronic Whiplash Syndrome. In Pain. January 2007. Vol. 127. No. 1-2. Pp. 121-128.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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