While whiplash happens in an instant, the recovery is unfortunately not as fast. Whiplash treatment often takes weeks or months to be fully effective, even in more mild cases. While every physical therapy appointment, chiropractic adjustment, and massage is getting you one step closer to full recovery, there may be times in between that you struggle with pain and other symptoms stemming from your whiplash injury. When whiplash symptoms flare up at home, there are a number of home remedies and techniques that can help you cope with the pain. You should always check with your doctor before using any home remedy for an injury.
Use Both Hot and Cold Therapy
Both ice packs and heating packs are good to have on hand to relieve neck pain with a number of causes, but it is important to know when each temperature is the best fit.
Immediately following an accident, icing the neck and shoulders can be beneficial not only as a numbing agent, but also because the cold may reduce swelling. The first 48 hours following an accident is when swelling is most likely to occur in the soft tissues. Ice packs, which also help reduce the swelling in your hand, should always be wrapped in a light towel or other fabric to avoid direct contact with the skin that may cause burns.
Once the first 48 hours have passed, you can begin to use heat therapy as well. The warmer temperatures help to loosen muscles and encourage blood and oxygen flow, bringing nutrients to the soft tissues. This helps avoid inflammation, tension, stiffness, or even future damage.
Gentle Activity and Stretching
Rest will always be recommended in the aftermath of a car accident. Taking it easy for a couple of days can help the body calm down and recover. However, whiplash is also best helped by incorporating gentle movement back into your routine. The image you often see on TV of a whiplash patient in a neck brace is actually not recommended practice. Instead, you should avoid sudden or strenuous movements during whiplash treatment while still allowing your neck muscles to regain strength.
Your Atlanta physical therapist may also assign stretches or routines for you to complete at home in order to keep the neck gently active. Follow these guidelines carefully and be cautious not to push yourself farther than instructed, which can cause more damage.
In general, pain medicine is not considered a form of whiplash treatment, as it covers up symptoms rather than addressing their root cause. However, when swelling is a concern, the anti-inflammatory properties in an NSAID like Advil or Motrin can help by reducing the edema. Pain reduction may also be important to help you rest or be able to perform your physical therapy exercises.
Pay Attention to Posture
When our body is in pain, we often shift positions to try and reduce discomfort. This may bring temporary relief, but if the position you assume is not biomechanically sound, it can actually cause more problems in the long term or stunt your recovery. Be cautious of the way you sit, stand, and move as you recover from whiplash to take note of anything out of the ordinary and bring it to the attention of your physical therapist so they can help you develop better habits.
If you spend a lot of time at a computer desk or on your phone, be particularly mindful of your neck positioning to avoid bending over your screen.
Oils and Teas
Aside from pain medication, other products you can buy may help with pain and inflammation. Hot teas, like ginger tea, encourage muscles to relax and address inflammation. If you are struggling to sleep, choose decaffeinated tea like chamomile to encourage relaxation and rest.
Essential oils are another homeopathic remedy that can be helpful when applied to the skin or diffused through the air. Lavender encourages relaxation for better sleep, while stronger scents like peppermint or rosemary can act as an analgesic.
CBD oil is also becoming a popular treatment for injury-related pain. Many people cite topical CBD applications as a natural treatment method for muscle soreness and stiffness, making it great to incorporate into a massage.
Expert Whiplash Treatment
All of these methods are best used in addition to professional and expert whiplash treatment. At AICA Orthopedics, our physical therapists and chiropractors will develop a personalized treatment plan that not only happens in the office, but also gives you tools to be used at home as well. The more you do to cope with whiplash pain at home, the more efficient your recovery can be, so call AICA Orthopedics today to get started!