The term ‘whiplash’ describes a sudden accident involving the neck, such as in a car accident. The forceful movement of the head damages the ligaments and tendons in the neck.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms often take a while to develop after an accident. Any inflammation (swelling) and bruising in the neck muscles won’t usually be obvious at the time of the accident. It may take 6-12 hours for the symptoms to become apparent.

Symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, pins and needles or numbness in the arms and hands, blurred vision, nausea, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and difficulty swallowing.

How physiotherapy can help

Physiotherapy is helpful in speeding up the recovery from whiplash with advice and specific exercises to help to regain neck movement.

Taking anti-inflammatory medication can reduce the inflammation and painkillers should help to ease the pain.

It is very important to move the neck as normally as possible after the accident. If the pain is severe, it may be necessary to rest for a day or so initially. As the pain eases, the neck should be exercised gently to avoid stiffness.

It’s also beneficial to maintain a good neck posture when standing, sitting or walking, and to have a supportive pillow in bed.