Most people are familiar with the term ‘whiplash’, an injury that occurs when your spine is suddenly and forcefully overstretched.

We tend to think of whiplash as something that happens when you’ve been in a car accident but you can actually develop it in a number of other ways too. For example during sports or after a fall.

Most people don’t have symptoms immediately but experience a gradual increase in pain and stiffness in the spine, commonly the neck, within a few hours or the next day after an incident. Dizziness and headaches are also common.

Whiplash symptoms may actually worsen for several days and how you take care of yourself during this phase can make all the difference to the speed of your recovery.

 Advice for the early stages of whiplash


  • Pain relief – your GP may prescribe painkillers, antiinflammatories or even muscle relaxants to relieve your symptoms. Take a regular dose to reduce some of your pain, this will help you regain movement in your spine more quickly.
  • Keep moving – move your neck within a comfortable range, in all directions, regularly throughout the day. This may be a little sore to begin with but it won’t cause damage. Don’t push through pain or do all your exercises in one go … little and often is the key.
  • Continue normal activities – you can keep up any of your normal daily activities if they feel comfortable. Modify those activities that feel a bit much in the short term. You’ll find you can do a bit more each day as you recover.
  • Heat – you can try using a wheat bag or hot water bottle to relax tight muscles. If you are struggling with your movements, try putting some heat on the area for 10 minutes before doing your exercises.
  • Gentle massage – it’s safe to massage or ask someone to massage the muscles around your neck and shoulders gently.

Exercises for neck whiplash


Neck bend

Neck bend exercise for whiplash

Move your chin down to your chest and back to the middle again.

Neck turn

Neck exercise for whiplash

Sit upright and turn your head to look over one shoulder (imagine drawing a line on the horizon with your nose). Turn to the opposite side.

Neck side bend

Neck stretch to relieve stiffness after whiplash injury

Sit upright and tip your ear towards one shoulder. Now tilt to the opposite side.

Upper back twist

Spine twist physiotherapy exercise for whiplash

Sit upright and turn your upper body to one side. Now turn the other way.

Try not to worry … most people make a good recovery from whiplash but if you still have significant symptoms or you’re not back to doing most of your usual activities after 6 weeks, make an appointment to see your GP.

A few precautions …

If you experience any combination of dizziness, double vision, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, fainting or collapse, significant nausea, numbness around your mouth or lips, a metallic taste in your mouth or difficulty controlling your legs the urgent medical advice is required. Go straight to your local A&E department.

Give us a call if you have any questions,

The Physiofit Team!