posted May 8, 2012, 7:39 PM by LASP Team   [ updated May 8, 2012, 7:41 PM ]

‘Whiplash’ is what happens when someone’s head moves forwards and then backwards quickly. This quick back and forth movement may cause injury to the neck.

This whiplash movement often happens in car accidents. People who have been in an accident often complain of neck pain and stiffness afterwards, sometimes not until a few days after the accident.

For most people the pain is mild, does not interfere with their normal activities and gradually gets better. However, for some people recovery is slower especially if the injury is more severe. 

Research indicates that people who carry on with their normal activities recover faster than people who stay at home and reduce their activities.

Neck pain is the most common symptom associated with a whiplash injury. People with whiplash may also experience:

  • headaches
  • pain in the shoulders and arms
  • dizziness or altered sensation (eg pins and needles)
  • weakness in the arms.


You should seek medical advice after an accident if you have:

  • medium to severe pain in your neck
  • neck pain plus stiffness (you have problems turning your head)
  • arm numbness or weakness
  • drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion
  • any complaints that are not getting better or are getting worse.


A registered health professional such as your GP or Physiotherapist is the best person to advise you about how to manage your Whiplash.

If your pain is mild, your doctor will advise you to continue normal daily activities and, if required, use pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol.

If you have more severe pain, you may be advised to continue with light activities, use pain relieving medication and do exercises. The exercises will help to restore movement and flexibility in your neck, and ensure that your muscles are acting to support the neck.  Your Physiotherapist is the best person to teach you these exercises.

Treatments that helps Whiplash:

  • Act as usual: Pain is a normal reaction to being hurt. You may have pain but maintaining your normal activities is an important factor in getting better.
  • Exercise: Specific exercises to restore muscle control and support your neck should improve postural control and prevent unnecessary postural strain. You Physiotherapist can teach you specific exercises. General exercise (such as walking) and activity are also important.
  • Pain relieving medication
Treatments that do NOT help Whiplash and are not recommended:
  • Cervical pillows: there is no evidence to prove their usefulness.
  • Bed rest: A period of bed rest is not recommended for people with mild pain. People with severe pain should not have bed rest for more than four days.
  • Collars
  • Magnetic necklaces: There is no evidence to prove their usefulness.


Most people will be able to continue with their normal activities, but it may take weeks, or months, for the discomfort to go away completely. An “active” recovery in which you continue your normal activities is the best way to recover.

Pain is a normal reaction to being hurt. Pain during the recovery period does not necessarily mean that further injury has occurred.

Most people recover completely from Whiplash although some take longer than others. Every injury is different.

For more information, or to have your neck assessed and treated by a Physiotherapist, contact us on (02) 46473373.

Extracts from “Your Guide to Whiplash Recovery” by the Motor Accidents Authority (see attached).

LASP Team,
May 8, 2012, 7:39 PM