Injury type: Chronic

Category: Lifestyle Options

Rating: No research

What is it?

The term meditation refers to a variety of techniques or practices intended to focus or control attention. Generally, meditating involves the use of certain techniques such as focusing attention on the breath, or a specific posture. It is also important participants maintain an open attitude toward distracting thoughts and emotions.

How does it work?

Practicing meditation has been shown to induce some changes in the body, such as changes in the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. The system responsible for this response is the autonomic nervous system (sometimes called the involuntary nervous system). It regulates many organs and muscles, including functions such as the heartbeat, sweating, breathing and digestion. It conducts these functions automatically. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two major parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Meditation may reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system.

Is it effective?

A randomised controlled trial1 compared the effectiveness of basic body awareness therapy and exercise therapy for chronic grades I-III whiplash. The basic body awareness therapy, which had a focus on improving awareness and control of posture, consisted of activities of daily living (e.g. sitting, walking, lying down and standing), meditation and exercises inspired by Tai Chi (a Chinese form of exercise-related activity, which focuses on relaxation and uses various breathing and form work). In this trial, patients who received the basic body awareness therapy demonstrated a greater increase in physical functioning, compared to the exercise therapy group at post treatment. At three-month follow-up, the basic body awareness therapy group also reported less bodily pain and increased social functioning than the exercise therapy group. Similarly, Jyoti meditation (a traditional meditation technique) has been shown to help with improving symptoms in patients with chronic neck pain. A randomised controlled trial2 reported statistically significant improvements favouring meditation in pain intensity at rest and pain-related bothersomeness, when compared to the exercise group.

Are there any disadvantages?

There were no serious adverse events reported in either trial. However, increased pain was reported by a small proportion of study participants. Additionally, worsening of existing tinnitus, fatigue, and increased dizziness and headache may occur. If you are interested in learning meditation, ask about the training and experience of the instructor.

Where do you get it?

Community groups and instructors may run meditation classes. There are also therapists who teach meditation, and these are listed in the appropriate section of the Yellow Pages.


While there is some research on the use of meditation for whiplash, meditation as a treatment for whiplash cannot be recommended based on the current scientific evidence. More research is required before concrete recommendations can be made.