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Take the thinnest cloth you can find e.g. a thin tea towel, a vest or thin t-shirt.  Soak it in cold water and wring it out fairly well.  Fold it into a strip a similar width to your neck and lie it on a hand towel that has also been folded to fit your neck but that is still slightly wider than the damp, cold cloth. Wrap the whole thing, with the damp side against the skin, around your neck and pin or hold in place with a scarf.  Lie down somewhere warm and comfortable for half an hour and relax.  Remove the compress and wear warm clothing around your neck for the rest of the evening.  This should have the effect of minimising the damage to your muscles and ligaments and helping your body's repair mechanisms to kick in effectively.

More information on hydrotherapy

What else should you do?

Never immobilise your neck with a collar or layers of scarf unless you have been told to by an orthopaedic consultant.  Immobilising your neck will interfere with your body's normal healing and protective mechanisms and will place more strain on weakened structures when you take it off!

Only take painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs (like paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen, Nurofen, diclofenac, Volterol or codeine) at night or at the end of the day.  Painkillers mask the normal symptoms of healing and may allow you to put excessive strain on already injured tissues, so do not take them before activity.  However, I am not a sadist and if you have a banging headache and its your one week of the year on the slopes, then just take the minimum possible dose to get you moving.


Even if you feel fine the following evening, repeat the compress to enhance the ongoing healing.  

More information:

Types of strains and sprains

How your body heals injuries

A whiplash injury is characterised by strains of the front and back neck muscles, primarily sternocleidomastoid (SCM) (the big diagonal muscle at the side and front of your neck), anterior scalenes (at the front of your neck, around your throat and down to your upper ribs, so sometimes swallowing or coughing will be a little tender too) and the cervical erector spinae (back of neck muscles that end on the back of your head and may be responsible for any associated headache).

There will be pain and tenderness at the front, sides and back of your neck with varying degrees of stiffness.  

The pain is usually worst at night and on waking in the morning, particularly moving your head up off the pillow - this is mostly due to the injury to the SCM muscle which lifts your head.  The pain is usually somewhat relieved once you are up and about.

Whiplash Injury

Most people think of car accidents when they think of whiplash, but it is actually a very common injury in sports, particularly rugby, skiing, snow-boarding and ice skating. When skiing, the most likely type of fall to result in a whiplash injury is when you land on your back either up or down the slope with your head falling backwards to hit the slope.   You can of course also strain your neck when falling sideways, but not usually as severely.  Snowboarders tend to land more on their bottoms than skiers so don't suffer quite so much in the neck (just everywhere else!).

What is Whiplash

What causes Whiplash?

What to do if you think you've got a whiplash injury

The best thing to do if you suspect you have strained your neck in a fall (basically because you felt your neck and head swing backwards to hit the slope!) is to call it a day and leave the slopes.  However, most if the time you won't feel any pain until the next morning and so if it also early in the day or conditions are beautiful, let's face it, its unlikely that you are going to stop!  

If you do feel immediate pain and have difficulty moving your neck, you must assume you have a more serious injury until told otherwise.  Therefore, seek assistance to leave the slopes and immediate emergency medical assessment.  

So, when you do finally finish for the day, remember you may well still not feel any pain at all but do a mental checklist of how your body has coped with the day and of any falls. Once you have remembered that suspect fall, keep your neck warm for the rest of the evening and either when you are relaxing in the spa before dinner or having your bath or shower at home, wrap your neck up in a neck compress.

Neck Compress - relief for whiplash

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