If you were recently in a car accident, but no one was hurt severely, you may just ignore some of your minor aches, like a sore neck. It's important that you stop in to your doctor's office for an assessment—especially if your neck pain gets worse in the following days. Sometimes neck strain, or whiplash, can be indicative of a concussion.
Even if the whiplash is minor and there isn't a concussion, your neck's tendons and muscles could be damaged. Minor whiplash can cause decreased range of motion, nerve compression, headaches, and pain. Here's how to take care of your neck strain so it doesn't get worse.
Follow Your Doctor's Orders
Your doctor will let you know whether you just need x-rays, or more serious imaging tests like MRIs or CT scans.
If you are in pain, ask your doctor about analgesics. Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs may be all that's needed. However, if your muscles are causing painful spasms, he or she may have to prescribe something stronger or an injection of muscle relaxants.
Your doctor may also provide you with a neck brace to stabilize your neck and help you sleep at night without pain. However, collars aren't meant for long-term use since they can weaken your neck muscles and slow recovery, so make sure you ask your doctor how long you should be wearing it.
Rest at Home
It's important to apply both ice packs and heat to your neck. Usually you ice the first few days to bring the swelling down, and then once the swelling has gone, it's important to use moist heat to relax the sore muscles and improve circulation.
Get a Referral to a Chiropractor
While a doctor can help you with your diagnosis and initial pain, it's important to see a chiropractor for physical therapy that will restore your range of motion and relieve nerve compression. Some people develop long-term symptoms due to minor whiplash, but one study has shown that even hard-to-treat patients were able to find relief with chiropractic work.
For example, if your spine has been pushed out of alignment due to the whiplash, then your chiropractor can gently adjust the joint that has been restricted in its movement.
Some chiropractors use therapeutic ultrasound machines to treat whiplash. Ultrasonic waves penetrate deeply into muscles to reduce swelling and stiffness and to increase circulation. Your chiropractor wants to make sure that your muscles are warm and relaxed before you attempt any stretches. Once your muscles are relaxed, your chiropractor can teach you how to do gentle stretches to improve your neck's strength. For instance, some chiropractors use the McKenzie Method, a type of physical therapy that uses spinal extension exercises to reduce pain.
Talk with your doctor and with your chiropractor for more information on making a speedy recovery. To learn more, get in touch with a professional such as Preferred Family Chiropractic - Adrian Williams DC.