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Find out what whiplash is, 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.
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 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.
Your GP may prescribe a stronger painkiller like codeine.
If your symptoms do not get any better after a few weeks they may refer you:
- to a physiotherapist
- to a pain specialist
- for psychological support
Physiotherapy from the NHS may not be available everywhere and waiting times can be long. You can also get it privately.
Find a physiotherapist