Injuring your neck is not a problem you should take lightly. It’s important to take the proper actions to properly recover from the injury if you can.
Neck Injury Overview
One of the most common types of neck injuries includes whiplash, which often happens during a car accident. Your neck is basically whipped backward or forwards after your car hits something else or something else hits you. This doesn’t have to be a neck injury only, however. It could be anytime something hits you and causes your neck to jerk, straining the body part.
Necks train and whiplash are usually referring to the same injury. If you have a neck sprain, this is sometimes more serious and deals with injuries having to do with ligament tears. Either way, what you should do after the injury is usually similar.
What to Do During and Right After: Diagnosis
If you are in any kind of car accident or another incident that could conceivably jerk your neck around, it’s important to get checked out to make sure that you’re OK. This is obviously especially the case when you have any symptoms related to neck sprain or whiplash. These include any kind of pain or tightness in your neck or a problem turning your neck at all. If you feel any discomfort when you’re turning one way or another, this could definitely be a symptom.
Others include any kind of raw feeling in your neck or headaches that start right at the base of your skull and move upwards.
There’s not much you can do during the injury when it comes to whiplash except notice that it’s happening so you can get a diagnosis and help right after. In general, all you can do during potentially neck-straining injuries is try to keep your neck from being jerked in any direction, and instead move with the force, keeping your body in line with your neck.
Shortly After Injury: Ice and Heat
After you’ve checked with a doctor or other medical professional, the next thing to do is get home and get ice on your neck. Injuries in your neck such as whiplash and strain that aren’t too severe will tend to heal on their own. What you need to do in the meantime is keep your neck from swelling too much and to keep from aggravating it due to the pain.
In either situation, you can put a wrapped ice pack on it for 15 minutes every three hours or so. You should do this for as many as three days before seeking out additional help from a doctor. It’s important to wrap the pack or ice in a towel or cloth to make sure you don’t end up with cold burns on your skin, however.
After you’ve ice for a few days, you can switch to moist heat. The reason for this is that you should wait until any severe swelling has subsided. This can be in the form of towels that you soak and heat up, or you could take a shower. This can be a good supplement to your ice approaches.
Another approach you can take is taking medicine such as anti-inflammatory pills like ibuprofen with names like Advil. This can also help you to get that swelling down, which is one of the most important things you need to worry about when you first are dealing with the injury. Obviously, if you can’t sleep because of swelling or pain, then this is going to have a serious effect on how well you recover from the neck injury because your body needs that sleep in order to get you healed up again. That’s why you need to take inflammation and pain seriously.
Using a Brace
You’re also going to want to make sure that you wear a collar or brace for your neck, though mostly if you get a recommendation from a professional. You’re not going to want to wear this over the long-term, however, because it can make the muscles in your neck atrophy from lack of use if you wear it too long. But, in the short-term they can help you make sure your neck stays in a comfortable position so you don’t turn it accidentally in a direction that will cause further strain.
You can handle treatment over the longer term including using massage to force the muscles in your neck to relax. It’s a good idea to see a professional for this, someone with training in rehabilitation.
It’s also possible to use ultrasonic therapy to help with strain as well. Other treatments include hydrotherapy using Epsom salt to relax the muscles as well. You do this by adding it 2 cups of it to a bath full of warm water. Then, you just soak in it for about 20 minutes so that the magnesium from the Epsom Salt gets into your skin. It can help relax muscles that have tightened too much in your neck.
Long-term Treatment Through Prevention
One of the most important things to do after a neck injury is stay away from any physical activity that could strain the injury further. You’ll want to continue to stay away from this until the symptoms such as strain, restricted movement, headaches and other pain improve. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before going back to full exercise, but you can try some mild stretching techniques like just moving your head slowly in all directions and rolling it around just to see if your stiffness is still there.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that you don’t keep your neck in awkward positions too much. This might include hunching forward while viewing computer monitor’s or while driving. It could also include having a pillow that is too thick and that pulls your neck up too high. Pillows might also be too hard since this can also give you strain. So, it’s important to avoid any of these problems.
Some evidence actually suggests that moving your neck gently within your tolerance is important shortly after the injury in order to prevent further long-term problems from setting in. Ideally, you should do these exercises with the help of a professional in order to make sure that you do them correctly.
It can help to get special orthopedic pillows or other types specific for therapy that will help reduce strain on your neck. Some systems use an adjustable wedge approach to alter the way you set your legs and knees, the angle you're sitting at with your back and neck, and other factors in order to make sure that you remain comfortable while sleeping and that your neck isn’t aggravated further. There are also specific neck strap pillows for a more low-key way of solving this issue.
For more information about sports medicine in general, neck whiplash injuries in specific, and many other relevant topics as well, please contact us today. It’s important to have the right information when handling your injury and recovery process beforehand so you minimize the amount of time you miss out on. Many injuries are highly time-sensitive in terms of treatment, so it helps to be ready for it and get to it quickly.