If over-the-counter pain medications and self-care treatments at home aren't enough, your doctor may suggest:
- Prescription painkillers. People with more severe pain may benefit from short-term treatment with prescription pain relievers.
- Injections. An injection of lidocaine (Xylocaine) — a numbing medicine — into painful muscle areas may relieve the muscle spasms that can be associated with whiplash injuries.
- Muscle relaxants. These drugs can help ease muscle spasms but often cause drowsiness, so your doctor may want you to take them only at bedtime.
Physical therapy interventions are the mainstay of treatment for whiplash. Therapy treatments may include:
- Manual therapies, including myofascial release
As pain permits, exercises to stretch and strengthen neck muscles can help to minimize symptoms and help protect your neck in the future.
Although soft foam cervical collars were once commonly used for whiplash injuries, they no longer are recommended routinely. Immobilizing the neck for long periods of time can lead to decreased muscle bulk and strength and impair recovery.
If worn temporarily, cervical collars should be worn for no longer than three hours at a time and for only the first few days after the injury. If you're continually being awakened at night by whiplash pain, especially early on after the injury, wearing a cervical collar may help you sleep.
Feb. 15, 2012
- NINDS whiplash information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/whiplash/whiplash.htm. Accessed Dec. 28, 2011.
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- Bannister G, et al. Whiplash injury. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. 2009;91-B:845.
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- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Dec. 29, 2011.
- Hudgins TH, et al. Cervical sprain or strain. In: Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/163314371-3/896420369/1678/8.html#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4007-1..50007-9--cesec4_70. Accessed Dec. 29, 2011.
- Anderson BC, et al. Treatment of neck pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 29, 2011.
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