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Find out about whiplash, how it happens, what the symptoms are and how it can be treated.
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
- pain and muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms
It can take several hours for the symptoms to start after you injure your neck.
- 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
- 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
Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if you have:
- severe pain despite taking paracetamol or ibuprofen
- tingling or pins and needles on one or both sides of your body
- problems with walking or sitting upright
- sudden "electric shock" feeling in your neck and back which may also go into your arms and legs
- your arms or legs feel weak
These symptoms could be caused by damage to the nerves in your neck or back.
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