The duration of a whiplash depends largely on the severity of the accident. The first symptoms usually appear 0-72 hours after the event, and may take a long time.

Quebec classification

The whiplash is divided into different degrees.

On the body act depending on the accident mechanism different strong forces, resulting in different lengths of recovery times. The severity of a whiplash injury is classified in the Quebec classification :

  • Grade 0 - no complaints, no symptoms
  • Grade 1 - neck pain, stiffness of the neck. These symptoms can persist for days to weeks
  • Grade 2 - Restrained Muscle Tension - Depending on therapy and spread, it may take several weeks for these symptoms to disappear
  • Grade 3 - symptoms with neurological symptoms. This indicates a particularly heavy force with involvement of the central nervous system. It is to be considered an impairment or damage of nerve tracts in the brain and / or spinal cord, which may possibly persist for years
  • Grade 4 - Whiplash with vertebral fracture or dislocations ( displacements ).

Although fractures usually heal within 6 weeks, stabilization of the fractured vertebrae often requires invasive surgery, which can also damage the supportive musculature. It is not for nothing that grade 4 is the last and heaviest level of whiplash. Usually, a corresponding treatment with rehab or physiotherapy is necessary.

Duration of healing

The duration of healing of a whiplash depends on the severity of it. As a rule, the symptoms of whiplash resolve within the first four weeks.
However, the whiplash can also take a chronic development. The psyche of the patient plays a decisive role. The whiplash in this case can last for several months and may require contact with a psychologist. Such a chronic whiplash occurs in about every tenth person. Women of higher age show a particularly high risk of suffering chronic whiplash.


The neck brace has neither advantages nor disadvantages. It is mainly intended to prevent excessive movements.

Previously, a neck brace was used to immobilize the neck, but nowadays it has been abandoned and more emphasis is put on early recovery of mobility. The inevitable pain is combated with analgesics. Although these have the disadvantage that they attack the gastric mucosa and must therefore be taken in combination with a stomach protector, but by an early resumption of the movement, the healing rate significantly accelerated.

A ruff is usually used only within the first days after the whiplash, but it has neither very great advantage, nor disadvantage. Their main task is to restrict the patient's movement to avoid jerky movements. In particular, a short time after surgery, the affected area is still extremely unstable.

Physiotherapy is also often prescribed with the aim of shortening the healing time after a whiplash injury. Although it has a proven benefit in other muscular problems, the therapy after a whiplash trauma is complicated: The duration to no symptoms could be significantly reduced in a large study with nearly 4000 patients compared to the control group, although small improvements achieved could become.

The head and neck region is an anatomically and muscularly relatively complex structured and vulnerable region - in combination with the high force in a whiplash so a poor condition for rapid healing. It is a difficult and sometimes tedious task for physiotherapists, physicians and patients, which can not always be solved to complete satisfaction.

Duration of therapy

The duration of the therapy depends on how quickly the symptoms can be resolved by the treatment. Usually, this is the case within the first four weeks, but in chronic cases, the duration of the therapy can still be continued for several months.

Duration of headache

Headache is a completely natural accompanying symptom of whiplash. They are usually the first symptom and can take on enormous proportions. Headaches usually resolve within the first few days but may persist for several months in a chronic whiplash injury. The headaches are caused by the tension of the muscles in the neck and neck area. When these symptoms have completely resolved, the headache will also resolve.

Duration of the sick leave

In a whiplash trauma occurs in the cervical spine. This is usually caused by a collision, resulting in headache, neck and muscle pain. However, the whiplash is usually harmless and stops within four weeks.
The severity of the trauma, however, is independent of the severity of the car accident. Even a slight impact can cause severe whiplash injuries. Since the symptoms often start late, a doctor should be consulted under all circumstances. This can according to the severity of whiplash give a sick leave, which is usually between two days and three weeks. For longer than three weeks is not recommended, since then the chronic whiplash is favored.
In chronic whiplash trauma, the psyche plays a crucial role. The memories and pain let the patient relive the accident. To prevent this, the accident participant should be reintegrated as quickly as possible into his everyday life.


A blanket statement on how much time must pass after a whiplash in order to be free of complaints again, can therefore not be met. It depends on too many different - and sometimes uncontrollable factors. In a large number of cases, the symptoms persist for more than half a year after the whiplash injury; in other cases, they disappear after just two weeks. In order not to let it happen so far, as a car driver you can achieve a great effect in just a few steps: The right adjustment of the headrest drastically reduces the risk of a whiplash - various educational campaigns are therefore aimed at this topic.

As a rule, however, almost 100% of those affected become symptom-free again within one year. (87% after half a year). However, there are very different results, depending on the study design and survey method.

Often, a psychosomatic component is added, ie the symptoms can persist even without a physical cause. In rare cases, the impairment chronizes and permanently causes pain, including disability.

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