Complications of whiplash 

Most cases of whiplash eventually get better without any lasting damage, but sometimes the pain can be prolonged and severe.

Whiplash that lasts for several months or longer can sometimes cause anxiety and depression.

If the injury was the result of a motor vehicle accident, sorting out the damage to your vehicle and dealing with compensation claims can often be stressful and time-consuming.

Severe or prolonged pain can make it difficult to carry out daily activities and enjoy your leisure time. It can also affect your work. Visit your GP if your neck pain is causing problems with work or everyday activities.

Try to remain positive and focus on your treatment objectives. However, if you do feel depressed, your GP will be able to recommend appropriate treatment. They may refer you to a specialist pain clinic for further assessment and treatment or they may recommend counselling.

Recovering from whiplash

The length of time it will take to recover from whiplash will depend on how severely your neck has been sprained.

If the ligaments and tendons in your neck are only slightly damaged it may take a few weeks to recover. However, in severe cases, whiplash and whiplash-associated injuries can last for several months or for more than a year.

One study found the average recovery time for a whiplash injury without other associated symptoms was 32 days, and that 315 out of 2,627 participants hadn't recovered six months later (chronic whiplash).

Headrest adjustment

Correctly adjusting your car headrests may help prevent whiplash by stopping your head moving backwards.

However, it's difficult to stop your head moving forwards or sideways.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) provides road safety information and advice about how to adjust your head restraint.

Page last reviewed: 03/09/2014

Next review due: 03/09/2016