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Back Pain Health Center

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Neck Strain and Whiplash

When Will My Whiplash Feel Better?

Recovery time depends on how serious your whiplash is. Most cases resolve in a few days. But other neck strains may take weeks or longer to heal. Remember that everyone heals at a different rate.

Once the acute symptoms of neck strain are gone, your doctor will probably want you to start rehabilitation. This will make your neck muscles stronger and more limber. It will help you both recover and reduce the odds of straining your neck again in the future.

You might start with gentle stretching exercises that become more vigorous as you get better. But don't start exercising without talking to your doctor first.

Whatever you do, don't rush things. People who play contact sports need to be especially careful that they are fully healed before playing again. Your doctor will clear you to resume your activity when you are ready. Do not try to return to your previous level of physical activity until you can:

  • Look over both shoulders without pain or stiffness
  • Rock your head all the way forward and all the way back without pain or stiffness
  • Rock your head from side to side without pain or stiffness

If you start pushing yourself before your neck strain is healed, you could end up with chronic neck pain and permanent injury.

How Can I Prevent Whiplash?

There's not much you can do to prevent whiplash caused by an accident, of course. But there are some things you can do to improve your odds:

  • Practice strengthening exercises to keep your neck muscles strong and limber, especially if you have had neck strain before.
  • People who sit in the same position all day, like office workers, should take regular breaks to stretch and exercise their necks.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 04, 2014
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