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can physio help with whiplash?

Can Physio help with Whiplash?

What is Whiplash?

Neck pain and stiffness due to forceful, rapid back and forth movement of the neck. The pain often worsens with neck movement. Sometimes presents with fatigue, dizziness, tingling or numbness down the arm, and headaches starting at the base of the skull.


Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.

This motion can injure bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues of the neck.

Signs and symptoms of whiplash usually develop within days of the injury, and may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Some people also have:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression


Whiplash is commonly caused by car accidents. But whiplash can also result from sports accidents, physical abuse, and other types of traumas, such as a fall.

can physio help with whiplash?


See your doctor if you have any neck pain or other whiplash symptoms after a car accident, sports injury, or other traumatic injury. It’s important to rule out broken bones or other damage that can cause or worsen symptoms.

It is difficult to predict how each person with whiplash may recover. In general, you may be more likely to have chronic pain if your first symptoms were intense, started rapidly and included:

  • Severe neck pain
  • More-limited range of motion
  • Pain that spread to the arms

The following risk factors have been linked to a worse outcome:

  • Having had whiplash before
  • Older age
  • Existing low back or neck pain
  • A high-speed injury


A whiplash injury may result from:

  • Auto accidents. Rear-end collisions are a major cause of whiplash
  • Physical abuse or assault. Whiplash can occur if you are punched or shaken. It’s one of the injuries seen in shaken baby syndrome
  • Contact sports. Football tackles and other sports-related collisions can sometimes cause whiplash

In a car the best way to prevent whiplash is to purchase a car with a good safety rated head restraint and fit it correctly. Studies have shown 72-86% of head restraints are fitted incorrectly. It is important to note that correct head restraint fitting does not mean one-size-fits-all. If you and your partner share your car’s driving, it is important to note that the adjusts may vary significantly.


Can Physio help with Whiplash?

In whiplash, the soft tissues in your neck are damaged, so a physiotherapist can work with you to restore proper function and movement of those tissues.

Most whiplash patients will start to feel better within a few weeks of the injury. In that time your physiotherapy treatment will aim to:

  • Reduce neck pain, headaches, and inflammation
  • Normalise joint range of motion
  • Strengthen your neck muscles
  • Strengthen your upper back muscles
  • Improve your neck posture
  • Normalise your muscle lengths and resting muscle tension
  • Resolve any deficit in neural tissue extensibility
  • Improve your neck proprioception, fine motor control and balance
  • Improve your ability to cope with everyday activities, plus more stressful ones such as lifting
  • Minimise your chance of future neck pain or disability

If you’re experiencing whiplash, come and see us! Give us a call on (08) 9203 7771 or email and book an appointment and we’ll check them out, alleviate any concerns and give you the best possible treatment to keep the pain at bay.

Surprised that Physio can help with Whiplash?  Wondering what else we treat?  Take a look at our Physiotherapy Treatments page – you may be surprised at the range of ailments that can be treated with Physio.