How to treat Whiplash?

by Hunter Tam

Whiplash is a condition caused by injury to the soft tissue structures of the cervical spine or neck region. Usually whiplash is a strain of the muscles or sprain of the ligaments that move and support the spine and head. Often whiplash occurs after a sudden, unexpected movement of extension of the neck, most commonly during a car crash.

Whiplash Symptoms

These signs and symptoms may occur immediately or minutes to hours after the initial injury. The sooner after the injury that symptoms develop, the greater the chance of serious damage.

Neck pain
Neck swelling
Tenderness along the back of your neck
Muscle spasms (in the side or back of your neck)
Difficulty moving your neck around
Pain shooting from your neck into either shoulder or arm

When to Seek Medical Care?
The best time to call your doctor is immediately after the injury. If you cannot determine whether an emergency department visit is needed for your symptoms, then contact your doctor and ask for advice. If your doctor is unavailable at the time of your injury, then you should call 911 for transport to the emergency department. The risks associated with a possible neck injury are far too great to attempt to diagnose and treat yourself. You should see a doctor and have your neck braced to keep your head from moving during transport.

Depending on the severity of your car accident, emergency medical personnel may take you to an emergency department immediately. In this case, a cervical collar will be placed around your neck, and your body will be strapped to a long, firm board to prevent any movements until a doctor sees you.
With less severe car accidents, sports injuries, or other accidental injuries, emergency medical services may or may not be involved in your prehospital care. You should call 911 emergency medical services if you develop any of the following symptoms shortly after your injury:

Neck pain
Pain in either or both arms
Shoulder pain
Weakness or loss of function


Whiplash Treatment

Self-Care at Home:
Home care is intended to relieve your pain and minimize the amount of inflammation in the soft tissues of your neck.

Apply ice to your neck for 35 minutes at a time, up to 4 times per day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin. Place a towel between the ice and your neck. Continue to use ice therapy until the pain stops. (After you see your doctor, follow his or her directions for ice therapy.)
Take acetaminophen for pain relief or ibuprofen for anti-inflammatory action. Avoid ibuprofen if you have a past medical history of gastritis, duodenitis, peptic ulcer disease, reflux, or other stomach problems.

Medical Treatment:
The doctor most likely will recommend a treatment plan including a mixture of the following:

Neck massage
Neck rest
Bed rest
Ice therapy
Heat therapy
Immobilization of your neck with a soft cervical collar (only a minimal benefit if any at all)
Early range of motion exercises combined with heat therapy starting 72 hours after the injury to restore flexibility
Oral pain relievers

Avoidance of excessive neck strain for the next week and then increased activity as tolerated in the following weeks



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