Injury type: Acute/ Chronic

Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Rating: Promising

What is it?

Education may include the provision of information about any of the following: the mechanisms involved in whiplash, the nature of whiplash injuries, prognosis, recovery processes, advice to return to normal activities as soon as possible, how best to manage pain and reduce disability, and the potential treatments available.

Information may be provided verbally and/or you may be provided additional written information or a video to take home.

How does it work?

It is thought that appropriate education can minimise anxiety and distress; both of which may delay recovery from whiplash. Distinguishing between activities that hurt and those that are harmful may help to reduce unnecessary fear and avoidance of normal movement. Fear and avoidance of normal movement may impair recovery. Education may also provide information on the most effective methods of rehabilitation, meaning that you are more likely to be aware of treatments that work.

Is it effective?

A recent systematic review1 examined the effectiveness of structured patient education for people with recent and persistent whiplash. The findings suggest that structured patient education on its own is not more effective than other conservative interventions (such as physiotherapy, supervised exercises and massages) in improving pain, functional recovery and clinical outcomes of patients with whiplash. However, this approach may be beneficial when used in conjunction with physiotherapy or emergency room care, albeit minor and in short term.

Three reviews2-4 along with a clinical commentary5 synthesised evidence from primary and secondary research studies, as well as existing clinical practice guidelines in Australia and internationally for the management of whiplash. Overall, patient education was widely recommended across the board particularly in the early stages, which includes the following key components:

  • Emphasis on staying active, acting as usual and returning to normal activities as soon as possible
  • Provision of information about the course of recovery or prognosis, and reassurance to the patient about positive expectations
  • Education about the nature of the injury (e.g. acknowledge the pain and symptoms as a normal reaction to being hurt)
  • Advice on self-management and coping strategies
  • Education and advice on goals around improvement in function

Are there any disadvantages?

There do not appear to be any disadvantages associated with education or the provision of information.

Where do you get it?

You may receive educational material in hospital, from your GP or any other health professional involved in assisting your recovery following whiplash injury.


It seems that you are more likely to make a better recovery if you are provided with the appropriate information, in a timely manner. It would seem that this information should include advice to reduce fear associated with movement of the neck. However there is no clear evidence on the one ‘best’ way this information should be provided.