Whiplash is a neck injury caused by sudden movement of the head. It usually gets better within 2 to 3 months.
Check if you have whiplash
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.
Things you can do to treat whiplash
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
Urgent advice: 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.
Treatment from a GP
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.
Page last reviewed: 13 November 2019
Next review due: 13 November 2022