How to Treat Whiplash

Whiplash is an injury caused by a sudden and vigorous movement of the neck. When this sudden force occurs and the neck is moved beyond its normal range of motion, there is a possibility that the neck muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs or nerves may be injured. Approximately 106 per 100,000 people in Australia suffer from whiplash injuries yearly (Nikles et al, 2017).


  • Motor vehicle accidents (most common)
  • Sports collisions
  • Slips or falls
  • Blows to the head with a heavy object
  • Physical abuse

The symptoms following whiplash may present immediately, several hours or days after the injury, and may vary depending on the grade of whiplash.

(Yadla et al, 2007)

Grade Classification
I Neck pain, stiffness and tenderness only
II Neck pain AND range of movement & point tenderness
III Neck pain AND absent reflexes, weakness & changes in sensation
IV Neck pain AND fracture or dislocation


  • Neck pain and/or stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder, upper arm or back pain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Altered sensation and/or weakness
  • Visual disturbances or hearing difficulties
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or fatigue

(Yadla et al, 2007)

Diagnosis begins with a thorough history and hands-on clinical examination by an experienced health care practitioner. In some cases X-rays, MRI and/or CT scans may be required to confirm the diagnosis and grade of whiplash injury.

Patients receiving active therapy including manual therapy, mobilisations, postural & active exercises and advice have shown great improvements in pain intensity and range of motion. Other treatments for whiplash include soft cervical collars in the early stages, early physical therapy and coordination exercise therapy (Seferiadis et al, 2014) (Wiangkham et al, 2015).