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Should I Use Heat or Cold After a Whiplash Injury?

Should I Use Heat or Cold After a Whiplash Injury?

Always use ice pack applications after a whiplash injury- Never use heat!

The first thing to do is to apply an ice pack soon after the injury.  Application of ice works by slowing circulation in the affected area, which reduces inflammation and minimizes muscle spasms related to the injury.  Many urgent care centers advise patients to apply heat to the neck, shoulders and back after an auto accident.  Don’t apply any heat- this will often make the injured areas worse.  I suggest only using ice pack application until the level of pain and signs of inflammation decrease by at least 80%.  Even after that, I wouldn’t use any heat application, as this may flare up an injured area during treatment. For some, application of ice throughout the healing process is the best treatment.  You can take a regular shower or bath, just don’t stand with hot water on your neck and back or soak in a hot tub of water for a long time.

When not to use ice: Ice should not be used (or used only with doctor’s direction) under the following conditions: Persons with diabetes, especially when applied to their hands or feet, any area where sensation is diminished, or there is loss of feeling.  Also, ice pack applications may not be advisable for people with cardiovascular disease or any condition where blood flow to the affected area may be compromised.

What kind of Ice pack?  Don’t use that hard plastic thing you put into an ice chest to keep your bottled drinks cold.   Using some crushed ice cubes in a bag or a package of frozen peas/vegetables are adequate if nothing else is available, but I recommend using a quality ice pack that has a firm jelly-like filling that is contained in a soft vinyl-like bag. These kinds of ice packs are inexpensive, re-usable, and are excellent at retaining a colder temperature longer.  Plus they can be molded to the unique contours of the neck and shoulders. The ice pack should never be applied directly to your skin.  I advise my patients to put the cold pack into a pillowcase, then apply it to the affected areas.  This is the best thickness of material to have between your skin and the ice pack.

How Long Should I Apply the Cold Pack?  Typically ice pack applications should be applied 15 minutes to the affected area(s), then put it back into the freezer to get cold for about 30 minutes.  Then apply again for 15 minutes.  After those 2 applications, wait a few hours without any ice application to let your body’s temperature system “reset”.  Then repeat the 15 on, 30 off, 15 on cycle again.

Get Checked out by a Chiropractor That Knows How to Treat Whiplash Injuries.

Dr. Gary Martin, Irvine chiropractor has over 24 years of experience treating many patients that have been injured in serious auto accidents, specifically injuries involving pinched nerves, misaligned spinal bones, and strained/sprained muscles/tendons/ligaments of the neck and back. Even if you experience relief from symptoms such as neck stiffness, and shoulder or upper back tenderness with the ice pack applications, it’s still important to get an accurate diagnosis.  Dr. Martin can do a specific evaluation and examination that can rule out structural damage to your neck or its discs and joints. Then he can make a recommendation for a specific rehabilitative treatment program.  If you’re experiencing neck, shoulder or back pain, don’t hesitate to call Dr. Martin's chiropractic office in Irvine at (949) 559-7999 for a convenient same day appointment.

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