What to Do for Whiplash Neck Pain [Do’s and Don’ts]

July 23, 2022
woman thinking what to do for whiplash neck pain after auto accident

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Do you have a neck pain from a car accident, sports injury, or a sudden forceful movement? Then you should consider getting treated for whiplash pain. Also known as a cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome (CADS), whiplash injury occurs when a sudden, rapid, forceful movement causes the neck and head to whip back and forth. While it is a common auto accident injury, it can also be a result of physical abuse, sports injuries, or even amusement park rides. Whiplash injuries can be considered mild and may go away after a couple of days, it can cause severe pain and discomfort. Here’s a guide on what to do for whiplash neck pain Continue reading!

What causes whiplash injuries?

Whiplash is a condition where the neck muscles are subject to strain due to a sudden movement forward and backward. The rapid motion causes the neck’s ligaments and tendons to become stretched and torn which causes tenderness and twinge feeling around the nape. The common causes of a whiplash injury include:
  • Car accidents
  • Physical abuse such as punching, shaking of the upper body, or any sudden movement that involves the neck
  • Sudden falls or collisions
  • Sports injuries
  • Horseback riding
  • A heavy object violently falls on the head

Whiplash Symptoms

Symptoms typically appear within 24 hours of whiplash injury. Some symptoms might not be felt for a while but occur 2 to 3 days later. It is important to be aware of any changes in your body for a few days after an accident or a physically traumatic event. The common symptoms include:
  • Stiffness/tenderness of the neck area
  • Dull, aching neck pain
  • Headaches, especially at the base of your skull
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Irritability
Although whiplash injuries usually recover in 2-4 months, many people experience chronic pain for at least a few months. You should immediately follow up with your doctor if you feel any of the following:
  • If you can feel that the pain, tenderness, or numbness is spreading to your arms or shoulders
  • Loss of mobility in the neck, back, or head
  • Unusual memory problems
  • Severe headaches that last for hours

What to Do for Whiplash Neck Pain

what to do for whiplash neck pain


  • Seek immediate medical treatment, especially if you’ve been in an accident or any severe physical affliction.
  • Pain Management
    • Heat and cold therapy. Apply heat or cold packs to your neck for 15 minutes every 3 hours to reduce pain.
    • Over-the-counter medication for mild to moderate whiplash pain relief, such as Tylenol and Motrin IB (among others). OTC pain relievers are readily available in most stores. Be careful in following the directions on the label and make sure to consult your doctor if in doubt.
    • Prescription medication. Some antidepressant drugs can be prescribed to people suffering from more severe neck injury pain.
    • Muscle relaxants are used to loosen tight muscles and relieve pain. You may experience certain side effects, such as fatigue and sleepiness. If you’re having a hard time sleeping due to the excruciating pain, it may also be used to induce normal sleep.
  • Get ample rest
    • Get active rest. A complete rest encourages weakness in the muscle and soft tissue, particularly around injured tissues. Active rest includes less intense routines and movements that stimulate your body but will not strain the muscles either.
    • Regular breaks are important for office workers to allow the tensed muscles to move without stressing them.
    • Make sure that your neck gets proper support when you are sleeping. Incorrect sleeping positions can make whiplash pain worse and may trigger more severe discomfort.
    • Do simple exercises to reduce stiffness while increasing the strength and flexibility of your neck.
patient of a whiplash chiropractor
  • Use a soft foam cervical collar to reduce whiplash pain and help support your neck while sitting or walking. However, cervical collars should not be worn longer than three hours at once. Holding the neck still for too long can reduce muscle strength and hinder or make recovery slower.
  • Seek physical therapy and/or chiropractic care
    • A physical therapy program that includes stretching and exercises can gradually and safely strengthen neck muscles and improve flexibility.
    • Your doctor may recommend that you seek chiropractic care as part of your whiplash treatments. A chiropractor performs spine adjustment techniques to improve range of motion and decrease neck strain and pain. Chiropractic also helps in relieving muscle tensions and aligning them back.
[Read the chiropractic studies about whiplash injury here]
memory pillow for whiplash neck pain


  • Don’t shrug off symptoms. Seek medical care immediately for whiplash.
  • Don’t overwork your body too soon to avoid aggravating neck pain. Wait for your doctor to provide medical advice and a go signal to go back to your daily routine.
  • Avoid driving unless your neck can move easily to see traffic.
  • Don’t wear a neck brace for a long period. Prolonged wearing of a neck brace makes the muscles stiffer, resulting in slow recovery.

Chiropractic Care for Whiplash Injury: Is it really effective?

chiropractic care whiplash neck pain
Any whiplash accident can lead to the vertebrae being out of alignment. This can damage or irritate spinal nerves. Every whiplash case is unique, and some can lead to more serious injuries than you might realize. Chiropractic provides whiplash relief that is both pain-free and faster. Your chiropractor will assess your injury and any whiplash-associated disorders, and recommend exercises that you can do at home in between treatments to improve flexibility and healing. The individual’s condition will tell the length of chiropractic care for a whiplash injury. The chiropractor may refer you to another health professional if necessary. People who want to recover from whiplash injuries prefer chiropractic care for these reasons:

Pain Relief

The chiropractor will adjust your spine, relieve muscle tensions, and remove impinged nerves to reduce pain from your whiplash and neck injury. Your body will release pain-relieving hormones like cortisol and neurotensin through chiropractic care.

Improved Range of Motion

Chiropractic care helps restore and increase range of motion by mobilizing and realigning your spine as part of your rehabilitation and pain management.

Non-invasive and drug-free treatment

Unless otherwise stated by your chiropractor, chiropractic care is nonsurgical and unmedicated. You can rest assured that there are no potential side effects of unnecessary medications or surgeries.

Health Restoration

Chiropractic care is more than pain management. The goal of licensed, experienced chiropractors is to help you heal from your injuries and return your body to its best. Likewise, receiving chiropractic care also allows your body to heal itself, restore its health, and prevent further illness that may be caused by spinal misalignments.

How long does it take to heal from whiplash?

Most people recover in a matter of a month, depending on the severity of the whiplash injury. Stiffness and neck pain usually improve within a few days or weeks after the injury. If you have persistent pain, or any other whiplash symptoms, consult your doctor right away. It’s also highly recommended to visit a licensed and trusted chiropractor within 72 hours of the injury. Noninvasive procedures like chiropractic adjustments reduce inflammation and scar tissue and restore mobility without the surgical risks. [Read: The 10 Advantages of Chiropractic Care] If you have any questions or stories to share about whiplash neck pain, we’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and share this guide with your friends!

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