Few things can derail your triathlon training faster than feeling ill or injured. It’s especially frustrating when your injury is caused by someone else’s recklessness. That’s the situation for a number of triathletes every year who get whiplash during their training cycle.
Whiplash is a common injury caused by car accidents, especially rear-end accidents. The impact of the crash sends your body forward but your head doesn’t go with it, resulting in a painful neck injury.
Although whiplash often heals without lasting complications, it can heal slowly. During that time, you don’t want to derail your training. If you have whiplash and you want to heal faster and stay on track, a diagnosis and whiplash exercises are the keys.
How to Get Treatment for Whiplash
Many people don’t get treatment for whiplash because they assume the pain will go away eventually. This is often true, but getting medical treatment can help it heal faster.
For many people, the symptoms of whiplash don’t arise until hours after the collision. If you develop whiplash symptoms, the first step is to get an accurate diagnosis.
Your general physician may be able to give you a diagnosis, or he/she may send you for additional testing. After you’re diagnosed, your doctor may or may not give you treatments to help the injury heal faster.
One of the best ways to speed up your healing process is with neck-stretching and strengthening exercises. Chiropractors can evaluate your injury and give you customized exercises to help, so read more about how chiropractors treat whiplash.
To get started faster, though, we have some whiplash exercises that can also help.
Whiplash Exercises to Enhance Healing
To help your whiplash heal faster without putting your triathlon training on the back burner, try these exercises. One of the first rules for triathlon training is to find what works for you, so choose the exercises that fit your symptoms best.
Stand or sit with your back straight. Simply tilt your head to the right, trying to touch your right ear to your right shoulder. Tilt until you feel a stretch along the left side of your neck.
Hold this position for five seconds. Do three sets of ten reps on each side.
Sit or stand with your back straight. If it helps, pull your shoulder blades together.
Keep your head facing forward as you pull your head straight back as if you’re trying to give yourself a “double chin.” You should feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
Hold this position for three seconds and repeat for three sets of ten reps.
For neck flexion exercises, you’ll start by doing a chin tuck. With your head back in the chin tuck position, tilt your head down. This produces a different type of stretch along the back of your neck.
Hold this position for five seconds before resting. Do three sets of ten reps.
Proper posture is especially important for this exercise. As with neck flexion, a neck extension exercise starts with a chin tuck. With your head back in a chin tuck position, tilt your head up.
You’ll feel a stretch along the front of your neck. Hold the position for five seconds and repeat until you’ve completed three sets of ten reps.
This exercise is as simple as it sounds, and it’s especially helpful if you have limited range of motion when you turn your head.
While standing or sitting up straight, slowly turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold the position for five seconds.
Continue this exercise until you’ve reached three sets of ten reps on each side. With time, you should be able to turn your head farther and farther.
The exercises above primarily focus on stretching your neck, but this one strengthens your neck muscles instead.
Place the palm of your hand on your forehead and use your head to press against it. Make sure you’re pressing with your forehead instead of your hand. You should be the muscles in the back of your neck engage.
Keep pressing for five seconds. Repeat this exercise ten times.
For a more thorough result, you can do this exercise in other directions as well. For instance, place your hand on the back of your head and press your head against it. You can do the same with each side of your head as well.
Another twist on this exercise is to place your hand on your temple. Instead of pushing your head against it straight, push on it by rotating your head.
Repeat each of these variations ten times.
Upper Back Twist
For many people with whiplash, the symptoms extend from the neck into the upper back as well. If this is the case for you, an upper back twist can help you heal.
Sit with your back straight. Keeping your neck and shoulders in line, turn your shoulders to the right. Turn until you feel a stretch around your left shoulder blade and hold the position for five seconds. Repeat for twelve reps per side.
If you struggle with keeping your neck straight during this exercise, a partner can help. Sit up straight and have someone else rotate your shoulders while you keep your neck in line with them.
Just make sure you communicate well with your partner. Tell him/her when to stop and hold, and make sure he/she knows to hold you in the stretch rather “bouncing” your shoulders.
Don’t Let Whiplash Derail Your Triathlon Training
Whiplash (or any injury while you’re training) can take the wind out of your sails. Unfortunately, plenty of triathletes have given up when they didn’t think they could overcome an injury in time for a race.
As long as you build your whiplash exercises into your triathlon training schedule, there’s no reason it has to put an end to your dreams.
For more ways to deal with injuries or make the most of your training, check out more articles on our triathlon training blog.