Whiplash: Why You Should Visit an Exercise Physiologist Sooner Rather Than Later

As an Exercise Physiologist, I see a significant number of patients suffering from injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents (MVA). It is probably not a surprise that the most common MVA injury I treat is whiplash. Whiplash usually occurs following rear impact while in a stationary position resulting in fast forward and backward movement of the head and neck. The term ‘whiplash’ refers to damage to the vertebrae and surrounding soft tissues. Unfortunately, whiplash is often overlooked or mistreated due to lack of understanding of the condition and patients are often only referred for exercise rehabilitation months down the track as a ‘last resort’ when symptoms persist.

Outdated treatment protocols involved soft bracing of the neck and strict advice to restrict movement. The rationale behind this is to minimise risk of causing more damage. However, the latest research has shown that after a couple of days rest it is important to commence a series of gentle neck mobility and isometric exercises. This will help to release excessive tightness within the effected musculature and prevent restriction in neck movement down the track. The longer the neck is immobilised, the stiffer it will become and the longer the recovery time will be. It is important to remember it is normal to experience some initial pain when first performing the exercises, however, this will decrease, so long as you perform your exercises as often as advised by your exercise physiologist. As tightness subsides and movement improves, exercise progression should involve analysis of strength imbalances, posture and biomechanics to determine an individualised exercise programme moving forward.

If you are struggling with a whiplash injury and would like to find out how an exercise rehabilitation programme can help you, please contact info@absolutebalance.com.au to speak to one of our accredited Exercise Physiologist at Absolute Balance.


Phoebe Trolio

Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP, AES, ESSAM)


1. Griffiths, D., Kidwai A, S., Wright, C. Hyperextension strain or whiplash injuries to the cervical spine – revisited. Journal of whiplash and related disorders 2011; 3(1). 209-220

2. Southerst, D., et al,. Is exercise effective for the management of neck pain and associated disorders or whiplash associated disorders? A systematic review by Ontario protocol for traffic injury management collaboration. The Spine Journal 2014; 1-21

3. Haiduk, P., et al. Interdisciplinary rehabilitation after whiplash injury. An observational prospective 5 years outcome study. Medicine 2017; 96 (9)

4. Falla, D., & Hodges, P. Individualized exercise interventions for spinal pain. Exercise and sport science reviews. 2017; 45(2) 105-115

5. Peolosson, A., Ludvigsson, M., & Peterson, G. Effects of neck specific exercises compared to waiting list for individuals with chronic whiplash- associated disorders: A prospective randomised controlled study. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation.2016 97 (2); 189-195