Whiplash: What It Is And What To Do About It

Whiplash is an often misunderstood injury but one that presents real problems for those suffering from it.

A type of neck injury, it happens when the head suddenly moves forwards, backwards or sideways. Whiplash occurs when the neck’s tendons and ligaments are overstretched and damaged.

According to the NHS, “whiplash will often get better within a few weeks or months, but for some people it can last longer and severely limit their activities”.

Causes of whiplash

The most widely known cause of whiplash is the road traffic accident. This typically happens after the rear of a vehicle is hit by another vehicle, causing those inside to have their heads thrown forwards and then backwards suddenly.

If the driver and any passengers of the car that hits yours suffer an injury, it is unlikely to be whiplash as they will not suffer the same injury.

But car accidents aren’t the only cause of whiplash. Contact sports like boxing and rugby can result in this kind of sudden blow to the head. A slip or fall – for example, down the stairs – can also have this effect.

Being struck on the head by a heavy object is another way in which you might suffer whiplash.

Symptoms of whiplash

Among the most common symptoms of whiplash are neck pain and tenderness, neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head, headaches – particularly at the base of your skull, radiating towards the forehead – muscle spasms and pain in the shoulders and arms.

You might also find that you’re suffering from blurred vision and dizziness, as well as fatigue.

If you’re experiencing a diminished range of motion and tightness in your neck, you might be suffering from whiplash. Your neck muscles might feel hard and knotted.

There are several less common symptoms of whiplash, however. These include suffering problems with your memory and concentration, ringing in your ears, difficulty sleeping and irritability.

Symptoms may not begin immediately after your accident, but they will usually develop within 24 hours so it’s important to not assume you’ve been unaffected.

Your description of the symptoms you’re suffering will usually be enough for a clinician to diagnose whiplash. Tests and scans are not usually required to make a diagnosis.

How to treat whiplash

The NHS explains that you will typically recover from whiplash on its own, or after you’ve gone through some basic treatment.

This includes keeping your neck mobile and continuing with your usual activities. The organisation advises against using a neck brace, which will just keep your neck stationary. Although it may be painful at first to move your head and neck, it is important to do so to improve its movement and speed up recovery.

You are also advised to use an ice pack for the first few days, then a warm compress or hot water bottle to your neck following that.

Painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are also recommended. These should be used regularly, rather than just when you are experiencing severe pain. If they aren’t helpful, you may need to acquire stronger painkillers on prescription.

If these forms of treatment are not enough to ease the pain and discomfort, the NHS also suggests physiotherapy and specific exercises and stretches for whiplash. A physiotherapist may employ a number of tactics to improve your symptoms, including massage and gentle manipulation of your neck.

However, if none of the above has helped and you have been suffering from whiplash for a long time – six months or more – you may end up being referred for specialist treatment.

Have you suffered whiplash?

If you’ve suffered whiplash as a result of a road traffic accident or other injury, you might not know what to do straight away. This is where First4Lawyers can help.

We can find you the right legal help to present a compensation claim for whiplash – even though the government has introduced changes to the law around these claims.

Get in touch with First4Lawyers to find out how we could help you make a claim.


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