Managing Neck Pain After a Car Accident: 8 Tips for Relief

Did you know that 45% of people with chronic neck pain in the United States can blame a car accident for their injury?

A head-on hit that causes your airbags to deploy will do serious damage, but even low-impact motor vehicle crashes result in whiplash.

Whiplash occurs when your head and neck forcefully “whip” back and forth. It’s one of the most common causes of neck pain following a motor vehicle crash, so there are many ways to manage it.

Follow these 8 proven tips on how to relieve neck pain after a car accident.

1.Rest and Apply Heat/Cold

The best thing you can do for managing car accident pain is to take a few days off after the accident and rest. Your body has been through a trauma, even if you’re not covered in scrapes or bruises.

Try not to move your neck rapidly or too often, but you should allow for some movement to avoid it becoming any stiffer or weaker.

For the first few days, apply an ice pack for 15 minutes every 1-2 hours. Then, once the swelling has decreased, alternate applying the ice pack and moist heat (like with a warm, wet towel) for 15 minutes every 2-3 hours. Never fall asleep with the heat or ice on your body to avoid injuring your skin.

2.Take an Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen can help lessen the swelling and give you pain relief.

Always check with your doctor before taking any of these, especially if you take other medications. They can interact and cause all kinds of medical issues.

Your doctor may even recommend prescription pain medicine or a muscle relaxant if the over-the-counter pain relievers do not work.

3.Avoid Strain

Once you talk to a physician and they clear you to perform normal activities, you still want to take it easy. Take breaks if you’re sitting at the computer for long periods and lightly stretch every 20-30 minutes.

Do not cradle your phone between your head and shoulder to free up your hands. Use a Bluetooth device or put the phone on loudspeaker.

Avoid slinging anything like gym bags or heavy purses over only one shoulder and do not carry large packages until the pain subsides.

4.Get a Neck Brace or Support Collar

Your doctor may recommend a neck brace or collar for a brief time to give your neck the extra support it needs to heal. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so be sure to get one that fits your specific neck by trying it on before buying.

It’s not recommended that you wear a neck brace for a long time, however, because it can eventually weaken your neck muscles.

5.Gentle Stretching or Massage Therapy

After a few days of rest, you can begin to gently stretch your neck. Stretching helps loosen up the stiff muscles so your neck feels less tight and painful.

Alternatively, you can ask a loved one to carefully massage your neck and shoulders, use a foam roller, or book an appointment with a professional.

6.Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is another common treatment for whiplash and neck pain after a car accident. Your doctor will let you know when you’re ready for it.

Physical therapy programs vary in length and structure depending on your diagnosis. You’ll likely start working with a trained therapist several times a week before continuing exercises at home on your own.

7.Manual Manipulation

A more intense option is to find a medical professional that performs manual manipulation. Osteopathic doctors (D.O.) and chiropractors both use their hands to manually adjust your spine to relieve pain and improve range of motion.

These techniques aggressively move the spine, so you must get cleared by your doctor first to avoid further injury.

8.Therapeutic Injections

Finally, if you’re still in pain after trying all these other methods, your doctor may recommend therapeutic injections in the cervical spine for relief. There are three main methods you’ll likely encounter: trigger point injection, radiofrequency ablation, and cervical epidural steroid injection.

Trigger point injections

These types of injections use a very thin needle with no actual solution injected into the spine. Similar to acupuncture, the thin needle hits a specific trigger point to release tension. Sometimes it includes a small portion of a local anesthetic to calm down an angry muscle bundle.

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA)

If your neck pain originates from the joints connecting the bones of your spine (the facet joints), your doctor may try RFA.

RFA is when they use a special needle to burn part of the facet joint’s sensory nerve to stop the pain signals from going to your brain. It often provides longer-lasting relief than other methods.

Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection

This type of treatment uses contrast and x-rays (fluoroscopy) to guide a cortisone steroid injection to the outer layer of the spinal canal, the cervical epidural space. The steroid reduces inflammation in the spinal nerve tissues and roots in the surrounding area.

See a Doctor ASAP If You Have Neck Pain After a Car Accident

Are you worried that you experienced whiplash because you now have neck pain after a car accident? Do not wait around for your symptoms to get worse. Book an appointment to see a doctor right away.

Until you can get in to see a medical professional, find some relief with these 8 excellent tips on how to manage neck pain at home.