Physiotherapy Brisbane

Whiplash Injury and Treatment

If you’ve recently been involved in a car or sporting accident and are experiencing neck pain, stiffness, or headaches, you may have sustained a whiplash injury. The most important issue in the management of whiplash is optimal education about the injury, including the cause, treatment options and potential outcomes. This blog post will take you through the causes, symptoms and physiotherapeutic treatments for whiplash.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a kneck injury that occurs when the head and neck suddenly moves in an unrestrained forward and backward movement. The term “whiplash injury” describes damage to both the bone structures and soft tissues, while “whiplash associated disorders” describes a more severe and chronic condition. 


Whiplash is typically associated with motor vehicle accidents or a severe force to the neck and upper back, such as a sporting collision. Rapid change of force to the head and neck causes over-stretch, compression or traction injuries to muscles, ligaments and nervous tissue. 

Fortunately, whiplash is typically not a life-threatening injury, but it can lead to a prolonged period of partial disability or emotional distress.

Signs & Symptoms

Often minimal pain is felt initially but may develop over several days to weeks thereafter. It’s important to check in with your GP if you develop any of these symptoms following an accident.

Common symptoms related to whiplash may include:

  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • back, arm or jaw pain


Initially, the use of ice and/or heat to the area and anti-inflammatory medication is recommended. 

In the past, treatment included a soft cervical collar to reduce the range of motion of the neck, however, studies have shown that prolonged immobilisation slows the healing process. Though rest is important, keeping yourself moving will also aid recovery (as long as any other injuries being treated allow for this). 

Physiotherapy is an ideal treatment for a whiplash injury, to help strengthen muscles and reduce painful movements. It can also be important for work injury cases, to ensure a safe return to the job. Physiotherapy treatment can include: 

  • Active stretching exercises
  • Local massage therapy 
  • Postural correction
  • Ergonomic education
  • De-sensitising and neck strengthening


With early education and appropriate care, symptoms can progressively settle. Dependent on the severity of the injury, a whiplash associated disorder may take 12 weeks to two years to fully resolve.

For help dealing with whiplash or other neck injuries, speak to your physiotherapist to discuss treatment options and pain management.

If you need help with pain or immobility to get you moving again, or need a tailored exercise program, book in for your treatment now with one of our exercise, physio, or pain specialists via 1300 012 273 or head to our website and book a session at your nearest clinic.