How Long Does It Take to Recover from Whiplash?

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Whiplash?

There’s a reason bad things are described as being a “pain in the neck.” When your neck hurts, even turning your head when someone says your name is difficult. Whiplash is a particular kind of neck pain that may last longer than you expect. 


You’ve probably experienced the pain of  a muscle strain or sprain before. Technically, whiplash is a muscle strain, but it is a particular type of injury most often sustained during car accidents. When you’re in a car that is rear ended, your head “whips” backward and then forward very suddenly, causing trauma to your neck. 

The providers at Apex Medical Center help patients manage pain caused by all sorts of different conditions and issues. Neck pain due to whiplash often lasts longer than patients expect, but there are some things that may help you recover. 

Your symptoms may surprise you

Since whiplash is an injury to the soft tissues of your neck, you may expect your neck to hurt and that is certainly likely. However, you may also find that you have headaches and pain in your shoulders. 

Along with those common symptoms, you may also find that you feel irritable, fatigued, have problems concentrating, and even struggle to sleep well. Other symptoms you may not expect include numbness, weakness, or tingling in your arms or hands. 

If you’ve had mild injuries to your neck before, caused by something like sleeping in a bad position or looking at your phone for too long, you may expect whiplash symptoms to resolve in a similar way. However, whiplash may take much longer to get better.

Another thing that patients may find surprising is that you’re unlikely to feel the full effect of your injury right away. Most whiplash pain peaks a day or even two following the injury. 

What you can do

We recommend getting treatment as soon as possible following an accident likely to have caused whiplash. Understanding your injury earlier can help you know what to do to set the scene for a smoother recovery. There are also some steps you can take at home to ease the pain. 

Use ice

One of your body’s number one responses to an injury is inflammation. If you’ve stretched or torn soft tissues in your neck, they are going to be inflamed as your body begins to heal. Ice can help

Apply a cold compress to your neck every three to four hours for 15 minutes. Doing this for two or three days can ease the pain and decrease inflammation. 

Take medication

Depending on your health and other medications you take, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen may help. It’s important to talk to your doctor first. You should also only use these pain medications for a limited time. 

Apply heat

After you’ve used ice for two to three days, you may want to try using moist heat to ease your neck pain. You may want to use a warm, wet towel or take a warm bath to help relax your muscles. 

Length of recovery

How long it takes for you to feel completely better depends on several factors, such as the severity of your injury, your overall health, and many others. Most people can expect to feel better within four to six weeks, but a small percentage of people continue to have symptoms for several months. 

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, or if you have persistent neck pain for some other reason, schedule a visit with the experts at Apex Medical Center. We have three convenient locations, and would be happy to help you recover. 

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