Whiplash Associated Disorder

Whiplash describes the acceleration-deceleration forces placed on the neck in motor vehicle accidents or severe traumatic events. These forces may result in painful injuries to muscles, ligaments, and joints of the neck and other spinal areas. However, sometimes it may result in no pain or injury at all.


Neck pain and stiffness are the main symptoms. Other symptoms may include headaches, blurred vision, aching arms or light-headedness. These may appear immediately, or within a few hours or days.

People who are positive about their recovery and resume normal activity as tolerated may recover faster than those who markedly reduce their activity level for a period. It is understandable that some individuals may feel distressed, but this can settle with time and recovery.


Many people recover from whiplash, albeit at different rates. No injury is the same as another. The latest research continues to identify why there are different recovery rates between different people. While many recover within a few days or weeks, others may take several months to experience a substantial improvement in symptoms.

What can I do?

Try to keep doing your normal daily activities as much as possible. You do need to take care of your injury though, so there will be suitable exercises or activities your Physiotherapist and/or Exercise Physiologist can go through with you to reduce unnecessary strain while your body is recovering. They can also guide you through activity modification and pacing strategies to assist in continuing your daily activities, albeit modified to reduce risk of further injury.

Managing stress

Stress and pain can make it difficult to work through problems and see practical solutions. This may contribute to persistent symptoms with injury. Not all stressful situations are the same however, and there is no one ‘right’ way to cope. Develop a plan with your Physiotherapist and/or Exercise Physiologist to identify which skills will be most helpful to you.

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Jull, G et al. (2019). Whiplash Injury Recovery: A self-help guide. The University of Queensland and Motor Accident Insurance Commission.

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