Will a Heating Pad Help My Whiplash?

Jan 10, 2021

Will a Heating Pad Help My WhiplashAfter a car accident, you’re likely to feel a variety of aches and pains that you hope you can manage without high doses of medication. As the most common injury from a car accident, whiplash is often the cause of some discomfort. While the underlying causes of whiplash will need to be treated by a medical professional, there are steps that can be taken to manage symptoms at home and in between chiropractor appointments. But sometimes, what feels better might not be what’s best for your recovery. So does heat therapy help with whiplash symptoms? Read on to find out how this method works and alternatives you can try in addition.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a term commonly used to refer to neck strain. While whiplash is typically assumed to be an injury from a car accident, it can also occur in athletes or anyone participating in contact sports. This neck strain occurs upon a heavy impact that leads to your head jerking forward and backward very quickly. This unnatural speed and movement can cause the soft tissue in your neck to stretch beyond its normal ability, leading to tears and stretches in muscles and tendons in your neck. It’s important to note that this is different than neck strain, which damages ligaments because it affects tendons.

In most cases, whiplash causes significant pain, particularly in the neck and potentially the shoulders. You may also experience trouble with range of motion, or stiffness and tightness, as a result. Movement, like rocking your head from side to side or trying to look over your shoulder. Other symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, or tenderness.

Something important to note about whiplash is that it is not always apparent as soon as it occurs. While the strain is caused by the moment of impact, the aftermath of an accident often leads to a rush of adrenaline and endorphins that can mask symptoms for days at a time. Even if your neck is not sore after an accident, you should be evaluated for whiplash and related injuries like concussions to prevent your condition from worsening in the time before symptoms appear.

Ice and Heat Therapy for Whiplash

Using extreme temperatures like ice and heat are common suggestions for treating an injury from a car accident, and whiplash is no exception. But which helps when?

As soon as pain begins, you’ll want to begin using ice as a treatment. The cold temperatures help to reduce swelling in the muscles and tissues that have been overstretched. The best way to use ice is to place crushed ice into a bag or use frozen vegetables if available. They should be wrapped in a towel or piece of fabric to prevent direct contact with the skin. The soft nature of these ice packs will be able to contour to your neck, and they can even be placed inside of a pillow. Ice packs should never be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time, with 30 minutes in between applications.

On the other hand, heating pads and similar tools should not be used in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Unlike ice, heat applied to the injury can worsen inflammation and swelling. Only after these initial symptoms have been significantly reduced is heating a good therapy option. At that time, a heating pad is a good option to ease stiffness and reduce pain as you continue to heal.

Other Home Remedies for Whiplash

In addition to heat and ice, there are other steps you can take to manage an injury from a car accident. Along with any physical therapy exercises you have been told to do at home, gently moving your neck and working towards normal levels of use are important to regaining strength over time. However, you should still be careful performing normal activities and avoid heavy lifting, carrying a backpack, or keeping your neck in odd positions for long stretches of time. If you absolutely have to pick something up, here are tips on on lifting correctly.

Working with your doctor, you can determine if over-the-counter pain medication can help manage your symptoms in conjunction with your treatment plan. Your medical team will outline any other behaviors you are expected to adopt or modify as you heal

If you’ve suffered an injury from a car accident, contact AICA Orthopedics today. Our team of specialists will work together to create a customized plan designed around your specific case of whiplash, working with you to reach the goal of full recovery quickly and safely. Reach out today to schedule your first consultation.

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