Non-surgical Treatment of Whiplash

Doctor holding a tablet and a prescription medicine bottleMost cases of whiplash will heal in several weeks or months as the soft tissues of the neck mend. Although most patients recover within three months after the injury, some may continue to feel neck pain and headaches. Treatment for whiplash may include one or more of the following: wearing a cervical collar, cervical traction, chiropractic adjustment, physical therapy, and pain medication.

If whiplash is treated with a soft cervical collar, it is usually worn for one to a few weeks. Cervical collars limit movement and support your head, taking the load off your neck. This gives your muscles a chance to rest while healing. Lying down has a similar effect.

Cervical traction is a more serious treatment option. This form of traction gently pulls the head and stretches neck muscles. It provides temporary relief by keeping the neck immobilized. A portable cervical traction device can be used at your home or office.

Physical Therapy and/or Chiropractic Care
Often physical therapy is part of a whiplash treatment plan. Passive treatments such as cold or heat, deep tissue massage, and ultrasound often help alleviate pain and stiffness. Specific exercises help build strength and increase your range of motion. Physical therapists can also teach you about your condition, correcting your posture, and give you some relaxation techniques. Overall, physical therapy helps to reduce muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, and promote healing.

Additionally, chiropractic care is a good alternative for many neck injuries. The most common chiropractic procedure is spinal manipulation or adjustment. This can restore mobility and the alignment of your spine.

Over-the-counter, Prescription Medication, Trigger Point Injection(s)
Depending on the cause of your neck pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen may help reduce the discomfort, and sometimes a short-term use of narcotic painkillers is necessary. Muscle relaxants can also help by stopping muscle spasms. In more extreme cases, trigger point injections are a good option. (Trigger points are knots of muscle under the skin that form when muscles do not relax.) The injection contains a local painkiller that sometimes includes a corticosteroid.

Symptoms Often Resolve Within Weeks
If after 6-8 weeks your symptoms continue or worsen, or new symptoms appear, you should have additional x-rays and other diagnostic tests.

Updated on: 08/25/16
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Surgery for Whiplash
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Surgery for Whiplash

Very few patients with whiplash end up needing cervical spine surgery. If your doctor recommends it, though, there are several options.
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