Whiplash is caused when the tendons, muscles and ligaments in the neck area are sprained. For example as a result of a car accident.
- An ice pack can relieve swelling and pain. You should apply this as soon as possible after the injury, for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You can make an ice pack from a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel to prevent cold burns, which you can re-freeze time and again. Do not eat the frozen peas if they have defrosted and been re-frozen.
- Exercise will help increase your range of movement. In the days following an injury you may limit your movement to avoid pain, but it is best to try to keep moving as you usually would. You should gently move your neck forwards, backwards and to the side to stop it becoming stiff and even more uncomfortable. As your neck pain eases, you should find it easier to gently stretch your neck further until you regain the full range of movement.
- If you are in pain, get advice on suitable pain relief medicines.
- Keep your back straight when you are sitting, standing or walking to help prevent stiffness and pain developing.
- Avoid heavy lifting, punching or pulling, or contact sports like rugby and boxing, until your symptoms improve and your doctor or healthcare professional is happy for you to start these activities again.
- If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, take regular breaks to stand up and move your body so that your neck and back do not become stiff. You may need to ask for a special back support for your chair while you are recovering from an injury. You should speak to your HR department for more information about ways they may be able to help you if you have neck or back pain.
- Take care when lifting, bending or carrying out repetitive twisting movements. Make sure that you take regular breaks and move your body position.
- Change your activities so you don’t strain your neck. For example, make more trips so you don’t have to carry too much shopping, cut down on housework or gardening, or lift the handlebars on your bike so you can change your posture.
- You may find it helpful to sleep using a firm support pillow and to only use one pillow when you sleep.
- Physiotherapy may help you to regain movement in your neck. Physiotherapists use gentle exercises, manipulation and massage to help restore the body’s maximum range of movements after an injury or illness.
- Osteopathy can help with the treatment of neck and back pain. An osteopath uses their hands to stretch, manipulate and massage problem areas.
You should see a doctor if you have neck pain after a car accident or after an injury.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your whiplash treatments, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: November 2017