What is Whiplash?

Whiplash, or whiplash associated disorder, is a common occurrence after a motor vehicle accident. In fact, more than 85% of people experiencing motor vehicle accident injuries will experience neck pain related to whiplash after the event. Whiplash is typically referred to as whiplash associated disorder (or WAD) because it results in more than just neck pain. Other symptoms include stiffness, headache, shoulder pain, back pain, dizziness, fatigue, and much more. 

Motor vehicle accidents often result in whiplash What is Whiplash?

Whiplash associated disorders occur after injury to the neck as a result of a sudden acceleration/deceleration of the neck and head relative to the rest of the body.

Whiplash commonly occurs after a motor vehicle accident, but can occur as a result of a sports injury or any other event that results in rapid movement of the neck and head relative to the body.

Whiplash associated disorders can include injury to the many components of the neck including the joints, nerve roots, muscles, ligaments, and more. Since so many structures can be affected, it is important to consult your healthcare provider for a proper assessment.

Why is this important?

The typical length of recovery for whiplash associated disorders is 101 days! Even still, 23% of people are not fully recovered after 1 year. Considering 85% of all people in motor vehicle accidents experience neck pain afterwards, this is a huge percentage of the population.

Consulting with a physiotherapist can help you to get on the right track by creating a treatment plan tailored to your symptoms.

3 Tips and Reminders for Managing Whiplash

  1. Try to maintain your usual activities- it is very common after an injury that people will want to avoid movement. While this may seem like a good idea at the time, it can lead to the muscles in your neck stiffening which can reduce your mobility further and contribute to more pain.

  2. Engage in a specific exercise program- exercise (stretching and strengthening) can not only help to manage your pain, but can help to restore your mobility and strength to your previous levels. Consult your physiotherapist about an appropriate exercise program for you.

  3. Find ways to manage your pain- recovery from whiplash takes time, and requires you to learn how to manage your pain in the meantime. Application of heat, cold packs, massage, or acupuncture are all things that could help to manage your pain. Consult your healthcare provider for more information about accessing these services.

Management of whiplash takes time and is most effective with a multidisciplinary team. Take an active role in your rehabilitation by making a plan with your healthcare provider!


Contact us at Human Integrated Performance to book an appointment with a physiotherapist. From here we can help to guide you to the other services that will be beneficial in your care.


How long does whiplash take to heal?

The typical or median time of recovery is 101 days, but many people still experience symptoms after one year.

How is whiplash treated?

Whiplash can be treated with a combination of exercise (stretching and strengthening), manual therapy, psychology, massage, and more depending on your specific injury.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Whiplash has a variety of symptoms including but not limited to headaches, stiffness, shoulder and back pain, numbness, dizziness, sleeping difficulties,  and fatigue.


Bussières, A. E., Stewart, G., Al-Zoubi, F., Decina, P., Descarreaux, M., Hayden, J., Hendrickson, B., Hincapié, C., Pagé, I., Passmore, S., Srbely, J., Stupar, M., Weisberg, J., & Ornelas, J. (2016). The Treatment of Neck Pain–Associated Disorders and Whiplash-Associated Disorders: A Clinical Practice Guideline. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 39(8), 523–564. https://doiorg.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.08.007

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