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
  • 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.

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  • 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

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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.

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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

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