Whiplash pain is typically caused by a car accident that causes the head to jerk forward and then back in a rapid movement, stretching and tearing the muscles and ligaments of the neck; it is important to see a doctor if you have whiplash to be sure that nothing more serious is wrong. A doctor may prescribe a small cervical collar to relieve whiplash pain, but in most cases doctors believe it is best to encourage gentle movement in the neck rather than preventing it. In addition, getting some rest, applying ice to the area, and taking over the counter pain relievers are the best ways to relieve pain in the first 24 hours.
Relieve whiplash pain by sitting quietly and applying ice in 20 minute intervals for the first day following the injury. Do not try to stretch the neck or do any physical activity, which can worsen the pain. After the first day has passed, ice therapy may be replaced with heat therapy. A heating pad can be very helpful, as can be relaxing in a hot bath or taking a hot shower to relax the muscles. It is important never to fall asleep with a heating pad or an ice pack on, because this can cause burns or damage to the skin, including frostbite.
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Muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory medications purchased over the counter can also help to relieve whiplash pain, just be sure to follow the directions on the package when taking them. The neck pain and muscle spasms should begin to improve within a few weeks; if they don't, it is important to go back to the doctor for further tests to be sure the spine itself was not affected. In addition, prevent increasing the whiplash pain by moving gently for a few days to a few weeks. Do not attempt vigorous exercise, and keep the neck in mind when performing any physical activities; do not lift very heavy items, for example.
Be sure to take breaks throughout the day if you are sitting at a computer, and practice good posture by making sure the head is centered over the shoulders. Leaning the head forward will place additional strain on the neck, worsening the whiplash pain. Some people find they need physical therapy after whiplash occurs to relieve pain and health the muscles. If your doctor recommends this, it is important to do it in order to prevent lifelong damage and potential pain.