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
    • 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 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

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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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    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

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