Whiplash – Management and Predicting Outcomes

Whiplash Injury Physio Connex Wyong

Most whiplash injuries will occur as part of a motor vehicle accident, but can also occur on the sporting field, at work or at other times.  Whiplash injury will commonly provide some anxiety, with fear about the level of pain and associated difficulties with individuals preferred activities and even normal day-to-day tasks.


“Nothing worse than a pain in the neck” – even the word itself ‘whiplash’ sounds a little catastrophic.


It is true that 25% of individuals develop persistent moderate or worse pain and disability.  For 25% of individuals the ongoing issues are at a mild level, and 50% achieve a full recovery.  We expect these figures will improve with current up-to-date treatment on the back of considerable research in recent years.  There are a number of factors that can be used to predict outcomes.  Older age, initial levels of pain and dysfunction, and interestingly, heightened psychological state of hyperarousal relating to the event and injury.  Appropriate testing using the Whip Predict Tool developed at the University of Queensland can assist in predicting outcomes.  It may also be used, along with assessing for depression or anxiety, to advise which individuals will benefit from referral to a Clinical Physiologist to achieve an optimal result.


A whiplash injury is graded 1 to 4 (grade 1 being the least severe).  Medical guidelines are used to direct requirement for xray or other imaging such as CT or MRI, and for whom it is appropriate to refer for these. A thorough assessment at our Wyong clinic on the NSW Central Coast will provide information on joint motion, muscle strength and flexibility, nerve function and sensitivity. Treatment is then targeted to addressing the deficits on neuro-musculoskeletal assessment using “hands-on” manual therapy techniques, exercises and advice on activity levels.


From time to time a whiplash will also cause:

1) Harm to the proprioceptive receptors causing dizziness; or

2) Headaches from the neck (cervicogenic headaches)

It is worthwhile mentioning that the mechanism of a whiplash injury can cause concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) and this can occur without loss of consciousness. Symptoms related to concussion and their management are not discussed here.


Success of treatment is built on precise assessment and a ‘tailor-made’ rehabilitation program.


Your local GP is typically the central hub in management of this injury.  You can be confident that the best possible result will occur when actively participating in treatment that is guided by the latest in evidence-informed care.

To book in with our niche Headache and Upper Limb physiotherapist, Brendan Clark, please click here.