Whiplash - Symptoms 

Symptoms of whiplash 

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Don't drive if you have neck pain and stiffness that stops you turning your head quickly.

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Whiplash causes pain, tenderness, stiffness and loss of movement in the neck.

You may also experience headaches, muscle spasms and pain in your arms or shoulders.

If you have whiplash, the ligaments in your neck will be overstretched. This is known as a sprain.

Hyperextension and hyperflexion are where the tendons and ligaments of the neck are forcefully extended or flexed beyond their normal limits.

Although the ligament isn't broken, a sprain can often take a long time (sometimes several months) to heal.

After an accident, the symptoms of whiplash often take a while (six to 12 hours) to develop. Any inflammation and bruising in neck muscles won't usually be evident at the time of the accident.

Neck pain and stiffness is often worse on the day after the injury and may continue to get worse for several days afterwards.

Whiplash is usually short lived and self-limiting (it gets better on its own), but in a small number of people the symptoms persist beyond six months. This is known as chronic whiplash or late whiplash syndrome (see below).

Less common symptoms of whiplash

Less common symptoms of whiplash can include:

  • lower back pain
  • pain, numbness or pins and needles (paraesthesia) in your arms and hands
  • muscle spasms
  • dizziness 
  • tiredness
  • vertigo – the sensation that you're moving or spinning while standing still

Following a whiplash injury, symptoms of headaches and dizziness should only last for a short time. See your GP if they persist.

Whiplash can also sometimes cause memory loss (amnesia), poor concentration and irritability.

Long-term whiplash

Symptoms associated with long-term (chronic) whiplash are:

  • neck pain and stiffness
  • persistent headache
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles in the arms and hands
  • psychological and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety and depression

Read more about how chronic whiplash is treated.


Page last reviewed: 03/09/2014

Next review due: 03/09/2016

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

cameron2601 said on 29 October 2014

Chelsea,

I am suffering whiplash too from an RTC, it will get better in time and going to physio is great as that will benefit you.

I'm getting shooting pains in my shoulder and back and i'm constantly tired now. It's really affecting my work and I hate being sat around feeling useless as I cannot do my job fully!

Don't let it get you down, as much as it's a right pain, things will get better and then you can get back on track!

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Chelsea 21 said on 15 October 2014

I am suffering with whiplash , accident from rare in early august this year .
I have visited GP on few occasions , had physiotherapy also .
Still feel tired , headaches , weak , pins and needles in arms at times and weak limbs ..
My life seems to be on hold !
Get told it will get better eventually , very scary and depressive , love someone to help me through , what seems like an hell hole

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