Have you recently been involved in a motor vehicle accident? Does your neck, chest, upper back and shoulders hurt? Do you have a headache or pins and needles in your arm/s? You might have whiplash. The symptoms of whiplash result from forces causing quick accelerations and decelerations of the body. Whiplash is graded into 5 grades:

Whiplash Classification


What are the characteristics of activities that cause whiplash?

  • High acceleration then deceleration incident, often motor vehicle accident


Signs and symptoms of whiplash

  • Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, chest
  • Neck movement may be restricted
  • May present with pins and needles or numbness in the arms
  • Headaches with or without visual impairment


What does the science currently say?

The symptoms of whiplash often resolves, however sometimes it can become chronic. In cases of chronic whiplash:

  • Deep neck flexor and deep neck extensor muscles may become weak and lose their stamina to hold up the weight of the head
  • There might also be fatty infiltration and atrophy in these muscles
  • Re- organisation of slow twitch muscle fibres to fast twitch muscle fibres can occur
  • There may be impaired feedforward muscle activation


How can Physiotherapy help?

Your Physiotherapist will be able to:

  • Help you identify aggravating activities
  • Provide manual therapy to reduce pain, tightness and improve movement
  • Guide you through strengthening targeting the deep neck flexors and deep neck extensors
  • Provide stretching and mobility exercises for tight muscles
  • Provide scapular stabilisation exercises
  • Provide training for the proprioceptive reflexes of the neck, cervico- ocular reflexes, cervico- colic reflexes improving joint position sense and proprioception