How long does whiplash last?

Whether you were driving or a passenger in a vehicle, whiplash can both cause pain and limit your range of movement.

What is whiplash and what are the symptoms?

What is whiplash and what are the symptoms?1

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head jerking forwards, backwards or sideways. When you first experience whiplash, whether you were driving or a passenger in a vehicle, you might find that your injuries are both painful and limiting to your range of movement.

Typical whiplash symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Tenderness of neck muscles
  • Reduced and painful neck movements
  • Increased headache and migraines

What to do if you think you have whiplash

Whiplash recovery might involve taking time away from work, struggling with child care or missing out on your favourite hobbies. This is why it’s important to take immediate action and seek advice from a medical professional.

The specific treatment and rehabilitation required will depend on the type of whiplash you have: acute (lasting less than six months) or chronic (lasting six months or more). Your doctor can advise you best.

How to ease the symptoms of whiplash

We understand how difficult it can be to go about day to day tasks when you’re suffering from whiplash. The following tips may help in easing the symptoms of whiplash:


  • Rest your neck as much as possible for a few days after the accident and avoid any sudden movements. When resting, avoid sleeping with more than one pillow to avoid any further strain of the muscles.


  • Consult your doctor about taking any over the counter painkillers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen to help ease the pain and reduce inflammation.


  • If pain or immobility as a result of whiplash persists for more than a couple of weeks, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will be able to advise you on things you can do to boost your whiplash recovery, such as massages, neck manipulations or gentle exercises to prevent your neck from stiffening up.

Tips on recovering from whiplash provided by the London Home Visit Physiotherapy (LHVP) team.

Dr Hilary Jones comments on National Accident Helpline's #MakeItRight campaign research

Our research shows the true impact of an accidental injury on both the body and mind. Television GP Dr Hilary Jones discusses the importance of looking after the mind, as well as the body, during recovery.

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See more of our Make It Right campaign.

Preventing whiplash injuries

The NHS Live Well website advises that you can strengthen your back and neck muscles by doing yoga, pilates or any other controlled exercises that stretch your muscles and help improve your posture. These lifestyle changes can strengthen your back and neck, which can improve your whiplash recovery and help you avoid future whiplash injuries in the future.

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