Whiplash Recovery Time — (How Long Does It Last For?)
Whiplash, neck strain, or sprain, is a widespread injury worldwide. It happens when your head jerks in a sudden forward or backward motion. While symptoms vary widely, they typically go away in a few weeks if you take the proper recovery care and know the risk factors.
Our researchers at FinditHealth found that rest, hot and cold therapy, and other practices may speed up the healing process early on. While in rare cases, symptoms of whiplash-related disorders can persist long-term and cause severe pain, if you follow the advice listed throughout this article, you can recover from Whiplash in no time.
How Long Does Whiplash Last For?
With Whiplash, how you feel depends mainly on the specifics of your injury, such as the type of tissues affected and how seriously you were injured.
After a whiplash injury, most people typically feel an aching, dull pain in the front or back of their neck. Usually, the neck will be very stiff, and difficult to turn your head from side to side. Whiplash symptoms can range widely, starting as soon as you get hurt or even a day later. While the most common symptom is neck pain other symptoms you might experience are below:
- Back and Shoulder Pain
- Muscle Spasms
- Memory and Concentration Problems
- Chronic Pain
Recovery From Whiplash
There are many options for recovery from Whiplash injuries that have evolved over time. It was typically recommended to wear a cervical collar to prevent the neck from moving after a whiplash injury, but research has changed.
This can even be started the day after the injury with gentle neck movements. We encourage you to always speak with local health care providers to find the best recovery options for your and your whiplash injury. In addition, the below can also be tools used to help with recovery from Whiplash.
- Ice and heat therapy was applied to the injury for the first 24 hours after the incident.
- Medication like Advil to reduce pain and swelling (your doctor also might prescribe muscle relaxants)
- Physical Therapy
- Wearing a soft neck brace for the week after
- Steroid injections
- Chiropractic techniques
It is also important to prioritize your mental health as you recover from a Whiplash injury because it does affect psychological factors of your body. You should be mindful as often as possible to help heal your quality of life. Mindfulness meditation practices help you to shut down every noise in your head and be in the present moment. It is this noise that makes you wander in thoughts, losing concentration of the present.
Therefore, to be more in control of your thoughts and things happening around you, practice mindfulness often. A regular meditation practice will allow you to stay connected to your body as you heal and not get overwhelmed by the healing process and keep clear expectations for recovery.
What Is The Fastest Way To Recover From Whiplash?
Most people will start feeling better a few days after a whiplash injury. Typically, you can expect a full recovery within a few weeks after the initial event. In rare cases, some will experience lingering pain and symptoms for months after. It is impossible to know exactly how long it will take for you to recover from Whiplash as everyone heals differently and there are also many factors of recovery.
It has been shown that you are more likely to experience long-term effects, or a longer recovery window, after a more severe case of Whiplash. Also, people with previous neck or spine injuries are more likely to have difficulty treating pain or longer recovery windows from Whiplash. With recovery, we would recommend keeping a journal of your symptoms and the pain level you are experiencing so you can track your healing process and have clear expectations of recovery.
Regarding the fastest way to recover from Whiplash, it is best to always consult with your doctor first, but we can suggest some remedies. Hot and cold therapy is always a great idea after a strain or injury like Whiplash. This is where you will alternate heat and cold applied to the neck for 15 minutes every three hours. Ideally, this is done within 48 hours after the whiplash injury begins.
Taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen is also recommended to help with mild to moderate pain and inflammation. Typically, counter pain medications are strong enough for Whiplash but your doctor might prescribe stronger medications for more intense cases of Whiplash or even for chronic neck pain.
How Do You Know If Whiplash Is Serious?
- Pain or stiffness in the neck that goes away and then comes back, especially if it got worse after initially starting to improve. This especially goes for intense pain and always let your doctor know about baseline neck pain intensity and arm pain.
- Severe neck pain that negatively impacts your daily life
- Pain, numbness, or tingling that runs down your shoulders, arms, or legs
- Interferes with your ability to sleep and enjoy daily activities
What Should You Not Do After Whiplash?
After Whiplash, you want to be very careful before returning to your daily life. This injury is often made worse because the muscles in the neck affected tend to pull the head back into position too hard to compensate for the sudden movement that caused the initial injury.
It is suggested to avoid any sports, especially weight lifting, and any other activities that might strain your neck. It can be helpful to sleep on a unique neck support pillow that goes under your neck. A traditional pillow, unless it’s super firm, might actually cause more pain as you recover from Whiplash.
You can also place a tightly rolled-up towel under your neck while you sleep, and this could make sleep more comfortable. Also, we would encourage you to seek out activities that promote positivity and keep your mental health balanced. The healing journey after an injury can take a tremendous toll on your mental health so it’s important to stay motivated and involved in your community so you feel supported.
Conclusion – Research by Findithealth.com
Whiplash is a common neck injury often caused by a motor vehicle collision but can actually be caused by other factors as well. It is encouraged to rest and do a gentle movement with ice and hot therapy after the initial injury to help it help.
Always advise and consult with your local doctor for the best care. Researchers at FinditHealth found that most people with whiplash recover within a month, while some will have long-lasting pain, it is rare. We encourage you to contact your healthcare provider if chronic neck or back pain affects your work or personal goals.
Luz Chacon is a Health Educator, Wellness Coach, and EFT Tapping Practitioner with 30+ years in health advocacy. Specializing in stress management, wellbeing, and holistic health, she created a 40% stress reduction employee program. Luz is dedicated to helping busy individuals prioritize self-care, break patterns, and reach goals. She offers programs for organizations and individuals. Luz is passionate about sharing her health research and guiding informed choices!