While it might take hours or perhaps even days for symptoms to fully appear after injuring your neck, whiplash can leave you in pain and discomfort for months.

The severity of symptoms along with the length of time it takes to recover will vary depending on the individual and cause of the injury in the first place, but most people will usually feel better within two to three months.

Whiplash explained

Most often, whiplash is caused during a car accident or because of a slip or fall. It’s the term used to describe an injury to the neck caused when your head moves quickly forward and then backward.

The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head, headaches and pain, and muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms.

Discomfort and stiffness are commonly felt for several days after injury, but for most people, the pain is mild and doesn’t affect them getting on with their normal day-to-day lives.

However, in more severe cases, people might experience much worse neck pain as well as dizziness and weakness in the arms.


Following an examination and a whiplash diagnosis, your doctor will be able to prescribe treatments for recovery as well as pain management.

Treatment will depend on how severe the injury is, so while some people will be able to treat themselves at home with over-the-counter medication, others will need stronger prescription drugs and perhaps even physical therapy.

Some of the common treatments a medical professional may suggest are to take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and to try to stay relatively active. Movement may cause a little pain; however, continuing with your daily routine will help to speed up recovery.

Aiding recovery

There is a range of exercises recommended to help recover from whiplash, which can be done from the comfort of your own home. To find out more about these exercises and to see how to carry them out correctly, there are plenty of online video resources to choose from. 

Complementary therapies such as chiropractic treatment, massage, and even acupuncture may help reduce pain and discomfort and help regain neck mobility.

Serious symptoms to look out for

While whiplash is generally not something to cause too much worry, there are some more severe symptoms to look out for. 

If you do experience any of the following, you should contact your doctor immediately as they could be a sign of something more serious.

  • Severe pain despite taking pain relief medication
  • Tingling or pins and needles on one or both sides of your body
  • Problems with walking or sitting upright
  • Your symptoms spread to your shoulders or arms
  • Moving your head is painful
  • Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
  • Feelings of sudden “electric shock” in the neck and back which may also go into your arms and legs

These symptoms could be caused by damage to the nerves in your neck or back.

What not to do

Knowing what you shouldn’t be doing can also be helpful. When it comes to whiplash, it’s advised not to wear a neck brace or collar to support your neck for long periods of time. Also, don’t rest your neck for long periods, either.

Studies have shown that keeping the neck still can actually decrease muscle strength and interfere with recovery.