What to do about whiplash
Whiplash injury is a type of neck injury caused by sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways.
It occurs when the soft tissues in the neck become stretched and damaged (sprained).
Whiplash will often get better within a few weeks or months but for some people it can last longer and severely limit their activities.
Common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and tenderness, neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head, headaches, muscle spasms and pain in the shoulders and arms.
Less common symptoms include pins and needles in your arms and hands, dizziness, tiredness, memory loss, poor concentration and irritability.
It can take several hours for the symptoms to develop after you injure your neck. The symptoms are often worse the day after the injury and may continue to get worse for several days.
Visit your GP if you’ve recently been involved in a road accident or you’ve had a sudden impact to your head and you have pain and stiffness in your neck. They’ll ask how the injury happened and about your symptoms. They may also examine your neck for muscle spasms and tenderness and may assess the range of movement in your neck. Scans and tests such as X-rays will usually only be carried out if a broken bone or other problem is sus-pected.
Treatments for whiplash include keeping your neck mobile and continuing with your normal activities (using a neck brace or collar isn’t recommended), painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen )stronger painkillers are available on prescription if these don’t help), physiotherapy, exercises and stretches.
If your pain lasts a long time, you may be referred for specialist treatment and support at a pain clinic.
Painkilling injections and surgery aren’t normally used for whiplash.