Certain exercises may help reduce pain levels after whiplash injury

9 Apr 2018

The importance of exercise and its multiple benefits are widely known.  However, it is often a challenge for injured people to exercise when they are in pain. Although there is a great deal of research literature supporting the role of exercise in people without injury, there is limited research investigating the effect of exercise on people who are injured, and even less research investigating the effect of exercise on injured people who experience greater pain sensitivity. (Greater pain sensitivity relates to an increased responsiveness or reduced threshold to application of a gentle external stimulus, such as pressure or temperature.) It is also unknown if different types of exercise, such as aerobic exercise or strength exercise, are more likely to benefit or worsen symptoms in people following whiplash injury, who have a greater pain sensitivity.


What did this study find?

Recent research by Dr Ashley Smith, Dr Carrie Ritchie and Professor Michele Sterling showed that people with chronic pain following a whiplash injury could safely pursue 30-minutes of stationary cycle exercise or perform a three-minute wall squat without worsening their pain sensitivity. In addition, people performing the wall squat showed overall reduced pain sensitivity following exercise when compared to the cycling exercise.


Why is this interesting or important?

This is very promising for those people with high levels of pain sensitivity, suggesting that simple isometric exercises such as a wall squat may be of benefit in reducing pain sensitivity.


What does this mean for practice?

Dr Smith, Dr Ritchie and Professor Sterling are currently conducting further research to gain a deeper understanding of the role of exercise following whiplash injury.  This research will inform treatment guidelines, so that health professionals can instruct patients on appropriate exercises after whiplash injury, and aid recovery.



Smith, A., Ritchie, C., Pedler, A., McCamley, K., Roberts, K., Sterling, M. (2017).  Exercise induced hypoalgesia is elicited by isometric, but not aerobic exercise in individuals with chronic whiplash associated disorders. Scandinavian Journal of Pain.