What can I do to feel better after I jolted my body in a fall?
September 13, 2013 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I fell on the back of my head yesterday while playing kickball. I did the right thing and went to the ER, and got the all-clear: no concussion. I felt fine but headachey last night. Today I feel quite bad, and I'm not sure what I should be doing. Sporty-people, help?

So I caught a pop fly, and the force of the catch threw me backwards and I hit the back of my head on the dirt. I saw stars for a moment and may have passed out extremely briefly. Per advice of many involved, I went to the ER pretty much right away, where I was cat-scanned, etc., and found to not have a concussion. I was released with orders to take motrin for pain if necessary.

Today, upon waking, I felt like my entire body had been hit with a meat-tenderizer. Nearly every muscle in my neck, shoulders, and back are in pain. The only thing I can think of is that falling on my head caused some sort of jolt upon landing that rattled me badly, but I have no idea. (No one was close enough to me when I fell to see exactly what happened.)

YANMD. The dial-a-nurse for my doctor's practice says to ice it, take motrin, and go to the ER if I am in severe pain. The ER doctor last night said heating pad and motrin. I have taken the motrin and am still in pain, not sure to heat or freeze what is essentially the entire trunk-part of my body, or how to go about doing that. What now?
posted by juniperesque to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
My daughter just had a concussion last week. I know you didn't have a concussion but this might help anyway. Our doctor told us at least 2 days bed rest, no screens, no reading, nothing. Then she could get up and slowly start doing stuff. But if she ended up with a really bad headache again, back to bed for a full day. Sounds like you need to do some serious resting.
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:34 PM on September 13, 2013

Before I read your "more inside" I was going to say that you likely strained the muscles in your neck and upper back. After reading it, I am pretty much certain of it. Basically, you were looking up at the ball, meaning that the muscles along the back of your neck and upper back were engaged, pulling your head back. And then you hit your head, causing it to move forward quickly, against the action of those muscles. Neck strain, especially, can cause headaches.

As for heat versus cold - the general rule is that you ice swelling to reduce it and heat sore muscles to relax them. Alternating between them can also be helpful. It's hard to say from here exactly what you need, though.

If you have a shoulder joint injury, especially if you fell more on one side, that probably needs ice. That would be for pain in the front or top of the shoulder right out at the joint. For pain closer to the neck, heat is likely better. Use heat if you have muscle spasms.

For both heat and cold, don't overdo it. Give yourself a rest between applications. Gope you feel better soon.
posted by Nothing at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2013

Best answer: You have whiplash. It sucks. Take your ibuprofen, and take it on schedule so you can get on top of the pain.

Use a shower for heat (as in, have a shower to loosen up, do not move into the shower no matter how tempting), otherwise use ice in 20 minute intervals. They're a little fragile, but if you have access to those ice bubble blankets for coolers, you can put one in a pillowcase and cover quite a bit of back.

Try to spend as much time as you can with your neck supported by something other than your muscles. You can get a cervical collar at any drugstore.

On the upside, today is probably the worst day. You may be more sore-when-you-move tomorrow and the next day, but today is probably the worst of the sitting-still-pain-doesn't-stop pain. Ibuprofen, on a schedule.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You may have jerked your head up quickly as you were falling as an instinctual protective measure for your head. When you do that, it's like whiplash. That could possibly explain the pain in your neck.
posted by Dansaman at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2013

The only thing I can think of is that falling on my head caused some sort of jolt upon landing that rattled me badly, but I have no idea.

Well, you also landed on flat out on your back and shoulders, I assume - it doesn't sound surprising to me that you'd be sore all over after a bad landing. Do you have someone who can look at your back and say if it looks bruised?

The way to freeze your entire upper body is an ice bath, but that will take a lot of intestinal fortitude. You can do a cold shower instead - as a bonus, that is easier to switch between hot and cold with. Even if it doesn't have a real effect, the sensory distraction of changing the temperature of the area should give you some relief from the pain.
posted by jacalata at 3:20 PM on September 13, 2013

Yeah, sounds like you might have strained some muscles in your neck and back. If it really doesn't start feeling better, go back to the doctor and see if they can give you a prescription for a muscle relaxant. Also, if it really is a strain and not just bruising all over, consider getting a deep tissue massage in a few days if you're still having muscle pain. In my experience, massages can act as something of a reset button for muscles that are staying tense thanks to injury, and are especially helpful if you end up with other tense muscles from compensating for the injured ones.

As for applying heat to the entire upper half of your body, an electric blanket or electric heating pad would probably be big enough to provide enough coverage. (A caveat though: don't leave it on too long, no matter how tempting. It's fairly easy to burn yourself with these if you're not paying attention.)
posted by yasaman at 3:27 PM on September 13, 2013

A heated mattress pad is divine to sleep on when you have back pain.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:17 PM on September 13, 2013

Best answer: I just wanted to clarify, since it is not clear from your post and it's a really important point head injury-wise (there are a lot of unnecessary CT scans being done these days): CT scans cannot detect or rule out concussion. It is a clinical diagnosis only meaning that it can be made on just the basis of interview with the patient and physical exam. CT scans should only be done if more serious brain injury, like bleeding in the brain, is suspected based on the history and physical.

Agreed with Dansaman: this sounds like essentially whiplash by a different mechanism. Many people who have been in motor vehicle collisions have experienced what you are experiencing - the pain is worse the day after the crash. Make sure your Motrin is a good size dose of it (i.e. 600mg), alternate with Tylenol if you need to, and take some of the good suggestions above. The pain should start improving tomorrow.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:02 PM on September 13, 2013

When I had a severe abdominal strain a few months ago, I took magnesium (sort of a natural muscle relaxer) and fish oil in addition to ibuprofen; maybe these could help you too?
posted by singinginmychains at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2013

Go back to the ER or see your doctor urgently. The CT doesn't rule out a bleed in your brain, which is why they told you to come back if you needed to!.
posted by JeanDupont at 1:21 AM on September 14, 2013

I think you should go back to the ER for a recheck if you still feel bad tomorrow, especially if you had your CT scan within just a few hours of the injury - a slow bleed in your brain may not show up on the scan until it's been bleeding for 24 hours or so (roughly). I would expect you to have a lot of muscle soreness and fatigue the day after the injury, but nothing should be unexpectedly severe or getting worse by the next day. Head injuries aren't worth fooling around with.
posted by aryma at 1:42 AM on September 14, 2013

Response by poster: Just so y'all know, I did go to my follow-up appointment yesterday afternoon. Confirmed no concussion, no bleed, but I do have whiplash, so nice work on those of you who suggested it. I've now got a neck brace and some RX painkillers and a whole host of exercises to do as I recover.
posted by juniperesque at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2013

Do those exercises! I ended up with sciatica that manifested about 6 months later and was ever-present for years (and now is just the occasional numb leg) because of a sort of slow slide of maladaptive posture after the car accident that gave me whiplash.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:26 AM on September 15, 2013

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