Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Medications

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.

Therapy

Physical therapy interventions are the mainstay of treatment for whiplash. Therapy treatments may include:

  • Ice
  • Heat
  • Manual therapies, including myofascial release
  • Ultrasound

As pain permits, exercises to stretch and strengthen neck muscles can help to minimize symptoms and help protect your neck in the future.

Foam collars

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