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What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck caused from a sudden extension and flexion of the cervical spine.  It occurs when the soft tissues of the neck, such as the muscles and ligaments, extend beyond their typical range of motion.

Whiplash is caused by impact such as an automobile accident.  Whiplash-associated disorder is the most common injury following a motor vehicle collision.  Whiplash injury may also be caused by contact sports or physical assault.

Whiplash-associated disorder is the most common injury following a motor vehicle collision (Teasell et al., 2010).

Neck pain from a whiplash injury occurs in 65% of patients within 6 hours, 93% within 24 hours, and nearly 100% within 72 hours.  Many factors can influence the extent and location of pain, such as the condition of the patient’s neck, the speed, and direction of impact.

20% to 50% of people with a whiplash injury report persistent interference in daily life up to 1 year later.  Neck pain from whiplash is associated with disability, decreased quality of life, and psychological distress (Walton & Elliott, 2017).

Inflammation, decreased range of neck motion, disturbed neuromuscular control, and impaired neck muscle function is associated with whiplash injury.  Impaired muscle function of the neck is important for stability, coordination, and postural control (Peolsson et al., 2017).

Whiplash consists of multiple symptoms after the impact such as a neck sprain or strain, neck pain, decreased cervical range of motion, headaches, and dizziness.  Headaches present as chronic symptoms in 70% of patients (Atesok et al., 2019).

In some severe cases people suffering from whiplash may experience memory loss, paresthesia, sleep disturbances, fatigue, nervousness, blurred vision, or depression (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2019).

Symptoms of Whiplash

  • Neck pain: it is common to experience neck pain, decreased neck range of motion, stiffness, and tenderness
  • Shoulder stiffness and tenderness: stiffness and tenderness may also be experienced in your shoulders
  • Headaches: headaches are a common side effect of whiplash. The pain commonly starts in the neck and projects up to the head
  • Dizziness: be aware if you experience dizziness and/or instability after the whiplash injury. Consult a specialist if you experience dizziness
  • Tingling of the upper extremity: you may experience pain or abnormal sensation down your arm

How Whiplash Can Impact Your Health

  • Abnormal sensation of the upper extremity: persistent pain or abnormal sensation down the arm
  • Chronic neck pain: neck pain that persists beyond 6 months after your whiplash injury
  • Psychological distress: stress, anxiety, depression, or PTSD associated with the whiplash injury
  • Jaw pain: “popping” of the jaw or jaw pain, especially while opening your mouth to chew

Risk Factors for Whiplash

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sports collisions and trauma

Potential Complications of Whiplash

If you have experienced a whiplash injury, diagnostic imaging after the injury will be performed to rule out red flags such as a spinal fracture.  If you have experienced dizziness, nausea, severe pain, memory loss, or blurred vision be sure to communicate this to your doctor to rule out severe complications of head trauma.

What to Do if you have Experienced Whiplash

If you have experienced a whiplash injury consult a physician to rule out any emergencies.

Once you have ruled out severity of injury consider the following treatment options for conservative care.  The purpose of conservative care for whiplash is to manage pain such as neck pain and headaches and to improve function such as an improvement of range of motion of the neck.

Treatment Options for Whiplash

Recovery time from whiplash will vary from patient to patient.  It may be a few days to several weeks.  Most people will recover fully within 3-months, although some people will experience persistent chronic neck pain (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2019).

Continue to monitor how your body is feeling in response to treatment and communicate with your healthcare provider.  If you are experiencing psychological distress consider the importance of seeking advice from a trained psychologist.

Physical Therapy:
Exercise based interventions targeted at the cervical spine appear most beneficial for adults with chronic whiplash-associated disorder.  Exercise programs targeting the cervical spine for strength, endurance, flexibility, and postural control appear to be effective in reducing pain and disability (Anderson et al., 2018).

Heat and Ice Therapy:
While working and resting use heat and ice therapy in intervals of 15 minutes.  Ice will help with inflammation and heat will help with muscle tension.  Do not apply heat or ice directly to the skin.  Place a small towel between the heat or cold pack and your skin.

Check Your Posture:
Keep your neck in a neutral posture.  Relax your shoulders and retract your neck back so your ears are aligned over your shoulders.  Keep your eyes up, looking forward.  Avoid looking down for prolonged periods of time, and avoid clenching your jaw or tightening your shoulder muscles.

Chiropractic or Osteopathic Spinal Mobilization:

Mobilization treatments to the cervical spine had a beneficial effect on the physical as well as the mental aspects of late whiplash syndrome.  The outcome measures showed significant relief of neck-related pain and disability and quality of life (Schwerla et al., 2013).


Acupuncture treatment has been associated with a significant alleviation of pain and has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for whiplash-associated disorder (Kwak et al., 2012).

How Can We Help?

To determine if you are a good candidate for osteopathic spinal care, we recommend an initial consultation where we take a complete history and perform a complete spinal and posture analysis. After ruling out any complications we can discuss the best options for you based on objective measures.

All our patients are valued and for the most part go though our Better Back Program which includes reducing the inflammation, repairing the soft tissue damage, restoring joint mobility, improving strength and flexibility and finally restoring proper movement patterns so that the problem doesn’t reoccur.

To book an initial consultation, click the button below.


  1. Anderson, C., Yeung, E., Tong, T., & Reed, N. (2018). A narrative review on cervical interventions in adults with chronic whiplash-associated disorder. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine4(1).
  2. Atesok, K., Tanaka, N., Robinson, Y., Pittman, J., & Theiss, S. (2019). Current Best Practices and Emerging Approaches in the Management of Acute Spinal Trauma.
  3. Burns, K. (2021) Whiplash, American Posture Institute Blog.
  4. Kwak, H. Y., Kim, J. I., Park, J. M., Lee, S. H., Yu, H. S., Lee, J. D., … & Choi, D. Y. (2012). Acupuncture for Whiplash-associated disorder: a randomized, waiting-list controlled, pilot trial. European Journal of Integrative Medicine4(2), e151-e158.
  5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2019) Whiplash Information Page
  6. Peolsson, A., Karlsson, A., Ghafouri, B., Ebbers, T., Engström, M., Jönsson, M., … & Peterson, G. (2019). Pathophysiology behind prolonged whiplash associated disorders: study protocol for an experimental study. BMC musculoskeletal disorders20(1), 1-9.
  7. Schwerla, F., Kaiser, A. K., Gietz, R., & Kastner, R. (2013). Osteopathic treatment of patients with long-term sequelae of whiplash injury: effect on neck pain disability and quality of life. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine19(6), 543-549.
  8. Teasell, R. W., McClure, J. A., Walton, D., Pretty, J., Salter, K., Meyer, M., … & Death, B. (2010). A research synthesis of therapeutic interventions for whiplash-associated disorder (WAD): part 4–noninvasive interventions for chronic WAD. Pain Research and Management15(5), 313-322.
  9. Walton, D. M., & Elliott, J. M. (2017). An integrated model of chronic whiplash-associated disorder. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy47(7), 462-471.

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[vc_row type=”container” overlay=”overlay-none”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]A whiplash neck sprain occurs when your head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards in a whip-like movement usually caused in motor car accidents known as a “rear-ender”. These movements generate considerable force, typically causing the neck to move far beyond the normal range of movement and causes damage to the delicate supporting structures of the neck. Whiplash is effectively a sprain of the joints in the neck – Osteopaths refer to this as a vertebral subluxation.

Whiplash can also result from forceful sporting injuries that cause similar stress to the neck joints, ligaments, muscles and discs.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row parallax=”content-moving” type=”fullwidth” overlay=”overlay-none” css=”.vc_custom_1435595183205{margin-top: -30px !important;margin-bottom: 90px !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”350px”][parallax_row direction=”up” speed=”0.3″ opacity=”100″ enable_mobile=”” image=”1545″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” type=”container” overlay=”overlay-none” el_id=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][medic_sep type=”2″ title=”Who gets whiplash neck sprains?”][vc_column_text]Whiplash neck sprains are common. About 2 in 3 people involved in car accidents develop neck pain (with or without other injuries). Many people are surprised with the onset of neck pain following even minor car accidents some hours following the accident. It is important to note that even minor car bumps can cause enough whipping of the neck to cause symptoms. Less commonly, whiplash can result from everyday mishaps such as jolting your neck when you trip of fall.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” type=”container” overlay=”overlay-none” el_id=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][medic_sep type=”2″ title=”Symptoms”][vc_column_text]Whilst the symptoms of whiplash will vary, the following represent the most frequently noticed effects of whiplash.[/vc_column_text][medic_list type=”categories”]Pain in the neck;,Head feels too heavy for the neck;,Reduced neck movement;,Neck stiffness;,Pain into the shoulders and arms;,Tingling in the arms and fingers;,Dizziness, headache, blurred vision and pain on swallowing; or,Irritability and difficult to concentrate.[/medic_list][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” type=”container” overlay=”overlay-none” el_id=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][medic_sep type=”2″ title=”Treatment”][vc_column_text]Osteopathic management of whiplash is extremely effective. All Osteopathic care initially consists of a through history, orthopaedic, neurological and spinal examination to determine the exact location of your neck pain. Diagnostic imaging such as Xray, CT or MRI scans may also be required to fully assess any damage.

Treatment consists of reducing pain and inflammation and stabilizing your neck to prevent further damage. Ice is perhaps the best natural anti-inflammatory modality and it is also very soothing when your neck is painful.

If you are able to support your head and neck, it is especially important to keep your neck mobile rather than immobilizing it in a soft cervical collar. Studies have shown that you are more likely to make a quicker recovery if you do regular neck exercises, and keep your neck active rather than resting it for long periods in a collar.

As your pain decreases, and your stability improves, your Osteopath will massage and gently adjust your spine to help improve your neck function and reduce nerve pressure.

Some other helpful advice is to avoid poor neck posture during your daily routine and to use a firm supporting contoured pillow when sleeping.

Whiplash responds very well to Osteopathic care, with most people experiencing significant improvement within weeks of beginning care.

Please call us for you comprehensive whiplash assessment. We look forward to hearing from you![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]