How Is Whiplash Treated?
Whiplash is a common injury suffered in traumatic accidents, such as car crashes and falls. It describes an injury to the muscles or tendons of the neck, such as a sprain or tear. Whiplash can be painful and debilitating, interfering with the victim’s range of motion. Several treatments are available for whiplash, however, and most patients make full recoveries.
There is no immediate cure for whiplash. Instead, treatments are designed to control symptoms and reduce pain while the muscles and tendons in the neck repair themselves. A patient may experience symptoms of whiplash for several weeks while healing and regaining range of motion. During this time, at-home treatments such as rest are recommended to facilitate healing. Resting the first day or two after the accident can help prevent further injury; after this, however, a return to normal activity is often more conducive to healing.
Ice, Then Heat
Many doctors recommend applying an ice pack to the neck in the first few days following a whiplash diagnosis to reduce pain and swelling. The cold will temporarily close small blood vessels, helping to decrease swelling and increase mobility.
Apply ice according to your doctor’s directions, but typically for about 15 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. After two or three days of applying ice, apply moist heat to the neck by taking warm baths or using a hot towel to loosen the muscles and prevent stiffness.
Neck Brace or Collars
If your doctor recommends it, you may be given a neck brace or medical collar to help support your neck during recovery. Typically, however, doctors do not recommend this as a long-term solution, as it could have the opposite effect by weakening the muscles in your neck.
Pain Medications, If Necessary
If you are in a great deal of pain, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription painkillers. Medication such as Aleve, Tylenol or Advil can help you with pain and discomfort related to your neck injury. Note, however, that these medications can have side effects and you should not use them regularly unless directed to by your doctor. If over-the-counter drugs do not work, your doctor may prescribe a stronger painkiller or a muscle relaxer, if necessary.
Injections may be an option if you are still in a lot of pain or if you need to numb the area for physical therapy. You may be prescribed a lidocaine injection for the numbing of painful areas, or a steroid injection to reduce nerve and tissue inflammation in a specific area.
Other whiplash treatments may include the use of therapies to increase mobility and healing. Professional care by a licensed and trained physical therapist can improve the strength and flexibility of the neck as it heals. In some cases, this has been known to reduce pain by decreasing the amount of stress placed on the spine. Massage therapy can also help with neck pain by relieving tension in the surrounding muscles and deep tissues.
Regular massages while healing from whiplash can help prevent muscle tension and muscle spasms, reduce pain, and increase blood flow to the injured area for faster healing. Chiropractic manipulation could also make manual adjustments that increase the range of motion and decrease pain. Acupuncture may also be a viable option to reduce pain in various parts of the neck and back.
Who Pays for Whiplash Treatments?
If you suffer a whiplash injury in a preventable accident in Nebraska, the person or party at fault for the accident may be financially responsible for your related treatments and medical care. This can include doctor’s appointments, scans, specialists, medical devices, medications, therapies and more. To learn more about your legal rights as a victim with a whiplash injury, consult with an attorney near you.