Neck Pain or Headaches after a Car Accident? You Might Have Whiplash!

Written by Oluwaseun Ambode, at Reddy Care Physical Therapy


Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. It mainly occurs during a rear-end auto accident. However, this injury can also be sustained through physical abuse, sports or other trauma.  

Common signs and symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness and headaches.

Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also include other types of neck injuries.   

Most people with whiplash after a car accident get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and physical therapy in the form of exercise, soft tissue manipulation (like the Graston technique), ergonomics education as well as modalities. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.

Take action and learn about what whiplash is, its symptoms, and how to manage a neck injury and other symptoms after a car accident.

Most Common Symptoms of Whiplash

Signs and symptoms of whiplash from a car accident usually occur about 24 hours of the injury and may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headache after the car accident
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Managing Neck Pain After A Car Accident 

If you’re experiencing neck and shoulder pain after a car accident, a constant headache, or other symptoms, you should take immediate action with the following suggestions:

  • Your Doctor could prescribe pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription) as well as some muscle relaxers
  • A cervical collar may be used for the first few days of a neck injury from a car accident, but use should be limited to the time period prescribed
  • Cold packs or ice can be applied to the neck to minimize swelling and pain. Apply ice/cold to the neck area for 7-10 mins
  • Limit motion of the head and neck until pain and muscle tightness are gone.
  • Limit strenuous activities such as sports or heavy lifting if your neck hurts after a car accident.
  • See a physical therapist to provide exercises and manual techniques for pain relief


Some basic exercises can help alleviate symptoms like migraines after a car accident and restore range of motion in your neck to get you back to your normal activities. 

These exercises may include:

  • Rotating your neck in both directions
  • Tilting your head side to side
  • Bending your neck toward your chest
  • Rolling your shoulders

How a Physical Therapist Treats a Neck Injury After a Car Accident

A physical therapist will create an individualized plan to help manage neck and back pain after a car accident and other symptoms and improve your function abilities. These will be in the form of range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening, soft tissue mobilization and manual therapy interventions as well as modalities.

A constant headache after a car accident, neck pain, and other symptoms need to be addressed as soon as possible. With direct access, you don’t need a referral to book an appointment with a physical therapist. Using the BetterPT website or app, you can find  top physical therapists that can manage and treat your whiplash symptoms after a car accident. Live worry- and pain-free by booking your physical therapy appointment today. 

Reddy Care-Physical Therapy empowers patients to take control of their health and well-being. Their plans of care are tailored to each patient’s unique needs, and they involve their patients in every step of the process.

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