This information may be useful for those who have been diagnosed with whiplash. People who are experiencing new or ongoing symptoms should contact their healthcare professional.

Read more about managing a neck problem

What is whiplash?

Whiplash happens when your head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards in a whip like movement. This can cause some of the muscles and ligaments in your neck to stretch.

Common reasons that people get whiplash include:

  • being involved in a car accident
  • a fall
  • a sporting injury

Urgent advice: Phone 111 if in the last 7 days:

  • there has been a new, significant trauma, for example a fall from height or direct blow to the head or neck area.
  • there is numbness, pins and needles or weakness that is worsening in one or both arms.
  • there are problems with your balance or walking since your neck pain started
  • you develop blurred vision, ringing in your ears or dizziness.

You may also experience short term:

  • headaches, dizziness or blurred vision
  • pain in the jaw
  • pain when swallowing
  • unusual sensations of the facial skin

Symptoms usually begin to improve after a few days. In most cases the symptoms are much better or gone within 6 weeks, however, it's not unusual to take a few months for symptoms to go completely.

Can I drive with whiplash?

You should not drive if:

  • the motion of the car aggravates your pain.
  • you are unable to turn your neck sufficiently to be safe.
  • You experience dizziness or blurred vision.

If you're unsure when it would be safe to drive contact your healthcare professional.

Diagnosing whiplash

In order for whiplash to be diagnosed you'll need an assessment from a healthcare professional.

They'll ask you questions about your neck issue and then carry out a physical examination. This may include checking your range of movement and strength.

You may sometimes need to have a further examination to rule out other possible health conditions.

Treatment of whiplash

If the cause of your injury has caused emotional trauma as well as physical, you may want to read more about mental wellbeing as this can impact your recovery.

In most cases whiplash will resolve gradually over time with the right help and advice.


Whiplash can sometimes mean you need to take some time off work to help recovery. How long you're off will depend on the nature of your condition and your role at work.

You do not need to be symptom free before you consider returning to work. Continuing to go to work, or returning to work as soon as is possible for you, will help your recovery. Gradually getting back to your normal daily activities can help to build up your strength and stamina levels.

Help and support

Following this advice, you should see gradual improvements over time.

You should see the biggest change in your symptoms within the first couple of weeks. Most problems should have improved within 6 weeks.

If your whiplash hasn’t improved within 6 weeks of following this advice, or if your symptoms get worse at any time, talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.

Find out how to access MSK services in your area.

Last updated:
16 June 2023