Is your neck stiff and sore after a car crash? Find out what is whiplash, how you can help it, and how your physio can help speed up your recovery.  

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is an injury to the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues of the neck as a result of a sudden and vigorous backwards then forwards movement of the head.

The most common ways to develop whiplash is in a car crash or during contact sports. 

Your neck is generally not immediately painful, however starts aching after a few hours or the next day.

Most patients report a constant “stiffness/aching” pain in the neck and shoulders that is worse with movement. It is also common for the person to have headaches with some reporting dizziness, a lack of concentration and pins and needles. 

Whiplash injuries appear mild compared to other injuries, however they can take months and even years to subside if left untreated.

What can you do to help?

Move your neck! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The longer you keep your neck still, the longer whiplash will take to go away. 

Do not think you need to “rest your neck” – you need to move it! The only time you would keep your neck completely still is if the doctors suspected you had a fracture and they would be sending you for an X-Ray. 

I understand that it hurts to move your neck, however movement is NOT damaging your neck, it is stretching sore and painful soft-tissue structures. 

If it hurts too much to move, take medications and/or use hot packs (to distract yourself from the pain)… and then move it. 

The one thing I have learnt from seeing whiplash patients for more than 10 years is the ones who get better faster are the ones who move their necks early. 

How can physio help?

Physio can help reduce the pain with gentle massage and dry needling. This can allow you to move your neck easier and therefore speed up your recovery. 

Not all neck exercises are the same. Some are better than others.

Your physio can provide you with specific exercises to help whiplash recover faster.  

If you’re unsure which exercises you should be doing, see your physiotherapist ASAP before this lasts for years.