What Is Whiplash?

A whiplash injury also known as whiplash associated disorders can refer to neck sprains and strains that occur when your head is suddenly jolted or thrown backwards and forwards in a whip-like movement. This whip-like movement can generate a large amount of force and cause strain and injuries to the structures of the neck. Due to the magnitude of the force whiplash can exhibit it is often the neck moves beyond its natural range of motion. This causes the muscles, joints, discs and ligaments of the neck to become overstretched resulting in strains that lead to the pain and decreased function of the neck associated with whiplash.

Who gets whiplash?

Most commonly people involved in motor vehicle accidents where they were ‘rear ended’ or hit from the rear of the car experience whiplash. Approximately 2 in 3 people involved in motor vehicle accidents develop neck pain that can be associated with whiplash mechanisms.

The velocity or intensity of the impact of the accident does not dictate whether neck pain or whiplash will occur, even the most minor of accidents can result in whiplash and pain related to whiplash which is why some people can experience whiplash without being involved in an accident.

Whiplash can also be a result from forceful injury that causes similar stress to the neck joints, ligaments, muscles and discs, and is normally more common in sporting games than everyday life occurrences. Less commonly, whiplash can result from everyday occurrences such as when you trip or fall.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Signs and symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Pain in the neck
  • A feeling of heaviness of the head, as though it is too heavy for the neck to hold up
  • Stiffness of the neck or reduced movement/range of motion of the neck
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Pain referring into the upper back, shoulders and arms
  • Numbness or tingling of the arms and/or finger

How can my Osteopath help if I have whiplash?

Whiplash responds very well to osteopathic treatment, with most patients suffering from whiplash experiencing significant improvement quickly.
Osteopaths can assist in the first line treatment of whiplash with osteopathic manual therapy involving multiple techniques and individualised exercise prescription.

Osteopaths can help to educate patients on the nature of this condition and assist with management of symptoms throughout each stage. Studies and evidence shows that manual/physical therapy can assist in the pain relief and maintenance of movement for whiplash related injuries.
Techniques Osteopaths may utilising throughout treatment here at Mandala Wellness may include;

  • Joint manipulation and mobilisation
  • Soft tissue and myofascial release
  • Dry needling
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Low level laser therapy
  • Exercise Prescription

Tailored Exercise prescription can be used for the rehabilitation and strengthening of the muscles and tendons of your neck. These exercises are used to assist in the treatment and management of your condition. These exercises might include:

  • Range of motion/mobility exercises
  • Strengthening exercises with and without assistive equipment
  • Postural changes and advice


Holm LW, Carroll LJ, Cassidy JD, et al. The burden and determinants of neck pain in whiplash associated disorders after traffic collisions, results of the bone and joint decade 2000–2010 task force on neck pain and its associated disorders. Spine. 2008;33(4 Suppl):S52–S59. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181643ece.

Panjabi, M. M., Cholewicki, J., Nibu, K., Grauer, J. N., Babat, L. B., & Dvorak, J. (1998). Mechanism of whiplash injury. Clinical Biomechanics, 13(4-5), 239-249.

Sterling, M., Jull, G., Vicenzino, B., & Kenardy, J. (2004). Characterization of acute whiplash-associated disorders. Spine, 29(2), 182-188.

Sterling, M., & Kenardy, J. (2011). Whiplash: evidence base for clinical practice. Elsevier, Australia.

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