Whiplash may seem like a scary condition to you, but it's normal and usually easy to treat. This usually occurs when you force your body to stop suddenly, which can cause your head to jerk forward uncontrollably, causing injury to your neck and spine. Whiplash is an injury that often arises from car accidents. You can treat mild or moderate whiplash at home with rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, it is best to seek medical attention, especially if you are in a lot of pain.
Method 1 of 4: Treat it at home
Step 1. Take it easy so that the injured tissues can rest
You will need to rest in bed for the first 24 hours after the injury. After this time, you can resume your activities slowly. However, you should still take it easy by doing fewer activities and separating them. Pay attention to your body and only increase your activity level as the pain subsides.
- Separate the necessary activities so that you can rest between them.
- Don't lift heavy objects.
- Don't exercise or do any strenuous activity.
- Ask your family, friends, and co-workers for help.
Step 2. Don't stay in the same position for long periods
Keeping your neck still can aggravate the whiplash and extend the time it takes you to recover. You may feel more comfortable while lying down. However, the pain and stiffness in your neck will be much worse when you move again. To avoid this, change positions from time to time and include gentle movements in your day.
- Move your neck carefully within your range of motion. For example, tilt your head forward as far as possible without pain, and then return to the starting position. You can also move your head from side to side.
- When resting, you should set a timer for every 30 minutes to remind yourself to change your position a bit.
- You can walk around you, but don't exercise or lift until you've recovered.
Step 3. Put an ice pack on your neck and shoulders for up to 15 minutes at a time
The ice will relieve swelling and pain. Wrap the compress in a towel or a T-shirt. Then place it on your neck for 15-minute periods several times a day.
- Do not apply ice directly to your skin, as this can cause a frostbite.
- Keep applying it every few hours for the first 24 hours after the injury.
Step 4. Start applying heat to the injury for 15 minutes per session after 24 hours
Heat can ease the injury, reduce pain, and make you feel more flexible. You can apply it several times a day for short periods of up to 15 minutes. This will reduce the risk of burning your skin, which can happen if you leave the heat on your skin for too long.
- The best option will be humid heat. You can buy a microwave hot pack containing rice, or make one on your own by adding white rice to a sock and tying the end. Microwave in 30-second intervals until lukewarm, not to exceed 90 seconds.
- You could also use a heating pad or a bottle filled with warm water.
- If the heat source is too hot, you can place a towel between it and your skin.
Step 5. Take over-the-counter NSAIDs if you have pain
NSAIDs are the best over-the-counter pain relievers for injuries, as they can also relieve inflammation. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve) will help to relieve swelling and pain. These pain relievers are usually enough to relieve mild or moderate pain.
- If the pain is more severe, you may need to consult with a doctor about the option of using prescription pain relievers.
- Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications. NSAIDs may interact with certain prescription drugs and diseases.
- Follow the directions for the dose included on the package, unless your doctor recommends taking a different one. You should always obey what the doctor tells you.
Step 6. Use a firm, supportive pillow to stabilize your neck while you sleep
Soft pillows will not be a good option for people with whiplash, as the neck will need support and be stabilized. Choose a pillow that says it is firm or that feels firm to the touch.
Method 2 of 4: Request Medical Treatments for Whiplash
Step 1. Take prescription pain medication if you have severe pain
Your doctor may prescribe pain medication if over-the-counter options don't work. These may include muscle relaxants for the relief of muscle spasms caused by trauma. He may also prescribe narcotics for you. It will be important that you follow the doctor's instructions when using them.
- Ask someone you trust to help you monitor how much you eat. If you're in a lot of pain, you may have a hard time controlling your doses, which can lead to problems later.
- These prescription drugs can be very addictive, so you should only use them when necessary.
Step 2. Get an injection of lidocaine to relieve pain if it is very severe
This is a numbing agent that can be injected to relieve pain. This drug is very helpful when starting to stretch and exercise to restore function to the neck, shoulders, and arms. For example, you could get an injection before you undergo physical therapy.
Ask your doctor if this option will be right for you. Not everyone will need lidocaine
Step 3. See a physical therapist to regain strength and range of motion
He can teach you stretches and exercises to help you regain some function in your neck, back, and arms. It will also show you how to do them at home.
- Physical therapy may cause discomfort, but it should not cause pain. Talk to your physical therapist if you feel pain during exercises.
- Common physical therapy exercises for whiplash include turning the neck from left to right, tilting the head from side to side, moving it up and down, and turning the shoulders.
Step 4. Use a foam collar if your doctor prescribes it
This used to be a standard element of whiplash treatment, but is now prescribed infrequently. For most people, whiplash will heal better if the neck is not immobilized. However, the doctor will know what is best for you. If he recommends wearing a neck brace, you should.
Ask how long you should use it and if you can sleep without it
Method 3 of 4: Employ Alternative Medicine
Step 1. See a chiropractor to adapt your spine once the tissues have healed
Chiropractors modify the spine to align it. Spinal adjustments may ease any remaining pain you may feel in your neck. They can also restore normal movements to the neck and back. After having a whiplash, it is best to wait until the soft tissues have healed before undergoing an adjustment.
- Let the chiropractor know that you have suffered a whiplash.
- Ask your general practitioner to recommend one.
Step 2. Consider massage therapy for pain relief
This therapy will be a great way to relieve some of the pain and help you feel more flexible. You can even do it on your own! As you would when visiting a chiropractor, you should wait until the whiplash has started to heal before using the massages. At first, you should only give yourself gentle massages, as you should not aggravate the injury. As you heal, you should let the massage therapist recommend the amount of pressure to use.
- If you go to a professional massage therapist, you should indicate that you have suffered a whiplash and that you are recovering. Ask him about his professional experience working with clients who have suffered injuries to ensure that he is prepared to treat yours.
- Do not ask friends or family to massage you if they have not received such professional training, as this could aggravate the injury.
Step 3. Try acupuncture to relieve pain and regain balance
Acupuncture is a type of ancient Chinese medicine that remains popular, as many consider it to relieve their symptoms. During this treatment, a trained professional will insert tiny needles into your skin. This may seem scary, but it will only cause mild discomfort, not pain. Acupuncture can be a great way to relieve neck pain after a whiplash, and without the need for pain relievers. It is also used in patients with whiplash to restore balance, which can be affected by the injury.
Before undergoing acupuncture, ask about the acupuncturist's credentials and professional experience. Tell him that you have suffered a whiplash and want to use this therapy to improve your recovery
Method 4 of 4: Diagnosing Whiplash
Step 1. Identify the symptoms of this injury
Pain and tenderness in your neck could tell you that something is wrong after an accident or injury. However, it may not be a whiplash, so you will need to identify other symptoms. Whiplash symptoms usually appear 1 to 2 days after a trauma that has forced the neck back and forth. If you have suffered a trauma that could cause a whiplash, you should identify the following symptoms:
- neck pain that gets worse when you move
- neck stiffness
- loss of range of motion of the neck
- headaches that usually start at the base of the skull
- tenderness or pain in the shoulder, back, or upper arms
- tingling or numbness in the arms
- dizziness and fatigue
- blurry vision
- ringing in the ears
- memory and concentration problems
- insomnia and irritability
Step 2. Go to the doctor or an emergency care center on the day of the accident
If you have any pain in your neck after an accident, you will need immediate medical attention. The lash will not be your only concern. You could have a fracture or other damage. Whiplash symptoms may be delayed for a day or more, so it will be important to start treatment early.
- If the injury is due to an accident, prompt medical attention may be necessary for insurance to cover medical expenses.
- Even if your doctor doesn't diagnose whiplash, you'll need to visit again if your symptoms get worse or if you develop new ones.
Step 3. Ask the doctor to perform a non-invasive physical exam
The doctor will need to touch and move your head, neck, and arms to determine if you feel pain or discomfort. He will also ask you to do some basic movements to see if you can do them and if they cause you pain. He will have to identify the following:
- your current range of motion
- the point where you feel pain
- areas where the neck, shoulders, and back are tender
- the performance of your reflexes
- the strength you have in your limbs
- the presence of sensation problems in the extremities
Step 4. Your doctor may perform imaging tests to identify the lesions
You may want to have an X-ray, CT, or MRI scan to identify other underlying problems that could lead to whiplash symptoms. These may seem scary to you, but they are relatively simple, non-invasive, and painless. You may feel mild discomfort from sitting still during exams.
- X-rays can determine if you have a fracture, dislocation, or arthritis.
- CT scans can show if you have bone damage.
- MRIs can detect bone and tissue damage, such as problems with the spinal cord, discs, or ligaments.
- Whiplash is often associated with car accidents, but it can also be caused by sports, physical abuse, and other traumatic events.
- Do not lift heavy objects for a minimum of 6 weeks after the injury. In some cases, you may have to wait 6 months.
- Many people begin to feel better after a few days, but others suffer the effects of the whiplash for several months. Treatment could be an ongoing process.
- Whiplash is viewed by most people as a physical injury, but psychological symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression can also arise. These usually appear later. You should see a doctor immediately if you start to notice any signs of stress or anxiety.