Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by sudden movement of the head. It usually gets better within 2 to 3 months.

Whiplash most often happens after a traffic accident or a slip or fall.

Common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • neck pain 
  • neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head
  • headaches 
  • pain and muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms

It can take several hours for the symptoms to start after you injure your neck.

Do

  • take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help with pain
  • try to continue doing everyday activities – it might hurt a little but it will speed up your recovery

Don't

  • do not use a neck brace or collar to support your neck – this does not help
  • do not rest your neck for long periods of time

A GP may prescribe a stronger painkiller such as codeine.

If your symptoms do not get any better after a few weeks, a GP may refer you to:

  • a physiotherapist
  • a pain specialist
  • for psychological support

Physiotherapy from the NHS may not be available in your area and waiting times can be long. You can also get physiotherapy privately.

Find a physiotherapist service

[Last reviewed 2019-11-13]