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Whiplash » Whiplash Treatment

Whiplash is often a self-limiting condition, which means that it will eventually get better following some basic or minimal treatment. Short-lived whiplash is sometimes referred to as an acute whiplash injury.

Other cases of whiplash can cause a wide range of troublesome symptoms that are often severe and last for a considerable length of time. Whiplash that lasts for six months or more is sometimes known as chronic whiplash or late whiplash syndrome.

Treatments for both are outlined below.

Acute whiplash

Research has shown that if you have severe pain at the time of your injury, and you later experience a variety of symptoms, your recovery time is likely to be longer and your chances of developing chronic whiplash are greater.

There is no clear-cut evidence about the best way to treat an acute whiplash injury because most of the studies that have been carried out to date have been of poor quality.


However, most healthcare professionals agree that active interventions, such as neck exercises and keeping the neck mobile, are better than inactive interventions, such as resting the neck and keeping it still by using a neck brace or collar.

Even though you may experience a considerable amount of pain, keeping your neck mobile from an early stage will help to improve its functionality and speed up your recovery.

Resting your neck and keeping it still is likely to prolong your symptoms and delay your recovery. Any pain that you experience when moving your neck is normal and will not cause further damage.


Analgesics (painkillers), such as paracetamol can be used to help relieve the pain of an acute whiplash injury.

Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first painkiller to treat mild to moderate pain. For neck pain, regular use of paracetamol is thought to be more effective than only using it when the pain is at its worst. If your pain is severe, your GP will be able to prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine. Codeine can also be used in combination with paracetamol to provide increased pain relief.

Ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can ease pain and reduce inflammation.

Always follow the manufacturers recommended dosage instructions when taking painkillers and NSAIDs. Do not take ibuprofen if you have a peptic ulcer (an open sore on the inside lining of the stomach) or if you have had one in the past. Also avoid taking it if you have severe heart failure (where the heart does not pump blood around your body effectively) or severe liver disease.

There are also a number of other health conditions where ibuprofen should only be used with caution.


If your whiplash symptoms continue to give you problems for several weeks following your injury, your GP may recommend trying physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy uses a variety of physical methods, such as massage and manipulation, to promote healing and wellbeing. It can often help to restore a persons range of movement following an injury such as whiplash.

As well as helping to relieve pain and stiffness in your neck using massage and manipulation, your physiotherapist will also be able to advise you about neck exercises that you can do at home.

Chronic whiplash

Whiplash that persists for six months or longer is known as chronic whiplash. As with acute whiplash, there is little in the way of concrete evidence to suggest what the best approach for treating chronic whiplash is, and which treatments are most effective.

However, similarly to acute whiplash, if you have chronic whiplash it is recommended that you keep your neck mobile and continue with your normal daily activities.

For chronic whiplash, a treatment plan should be based on your specific set of symptoms and should focus on dealing with the cause of your pain.


As with acute whiplash, a number of different painkillers may be recommended to provide pain relief. The specific type of painkiller recommended for you will depend on the severity of your pain and how long it usually lasts.

In some cases, paracetamol or ibuprofen taken as and when required will often provide sufficient pain relief. If not, you may need to take them more regularly.

If your pain is more severe or prolonged, your GP will be able to prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine, which can be used on its own or in combination with paracetamol or ibuprofen. When using paracetamol or ibuprofen, always follow the dosage instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Anxiety and depression

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.

If your symptoms are particularly painful or chronic (long-lasting), you may begin to feel depressed. It is important to try to remain positive and focus on your treatment objectives. However, if you begin to feel depressed, visit your GP who will be able to recommend treatment.

Your GP may refer you to a specialist pain clinic for further assessment and treatment, or they may recommend that you see a psychologist for counselling. Alternatively, they may refer you for a short course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), where a therapist will help you to manage your problems by changing how you think and behave.


As well as keeping your neck mobile and using medication to reduce pain, the self-care measures listed below may also help you to manage the pain and stiffness in your neck and prevent them from getting worse.

  • Good posture. You should maintain a good, upright posture by keeping your back straight while you are sitting, standing and walking. If you spend a considerable amount of time using a computer, you should ensure that your chair and computer screen are correctly adjusted.
  • Supportive pillow. Some people find that a firm, supportive pillow helps when sleeping. You should avoid using more than one pillow.
  • Yoga. Doing controlled exercises and stretches will help you to improve your strength and posture. However, there is no evidence to suggest that they help to reduce neck pain.

You can request a call back and we will ring you at a time more convenient for yourself or you can simply pick up the phone and call us any time on 01582 437070.

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