Injury type: Acute/ Chronic

Category: Lifestyle Options

Rating: No research

What is it?

Relaxation techniques are tools for coping with stress and promoting long-term health by slowing the body and quieting the mind. Such techniques generally entail: refocusing attention (by, for example, noticing areas of tension); increasing body awareness; and exercises (such as meditation) to connect the body and mind. Used daily, these practices may over time lead to a healthier perspective on stressful circumstances and coping with pain.

How does it work?

A ‘relaxation response’ refers to changes that occur in the body when it is in a deep state of relaxation. These changes may include decreased blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and rate of breathing, as well as feelings of being calm and in control. Learning the relaxation response may help to counter the ill effects of the fight or flight response and, over time, allow the development of a greater state of alertness. The relaxation response may be developed through a number of techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation.

Is it effective?

There are a limited number of studies assessing the effectiveness of relaxation techniques for the management of whiplash. A systematic review1 synthesised evidence on the effectiveness of psychological interventions highlighted a lack of clear evidence to support the use of relaxation training for persistent grades I-III whiplash. In this review, only one randomised controlled trial (RCT) was included to support this conclusion. In particular, this RCT reported similar outcomes between the brief relaxation training (guided imagery involving visualisation and listening to relaxation music) and acupuncture. When the study participants were provided with one session of each intervention, statistically but not clinically significant differences favouring acupuncture for trapezius muscle pain sensitivity were found, with no differences in disability, pain intensity or whiplash symptoms were reported.

Similarly, an RCT included in another systematic review2 identified that when relaxation was included as part of multimodal care, there was a statistically but non-clinically significant improvement in self-rated disability in patients with recent grades I-III whiplash. Additionally, greater self-perceived benefit and reduction in workdays lost were identified in this RCT as a result of multimodal care in the short term (i.e. at four months post intervention).

Are there any disadvantages?

There are no reported disadvantages associated with relaxation.

Where do you get it?

Community groups often run relaxation classes. There are also therapists who teach relaxation. These are listed in the Relaxation Therapy section of the Yellow Pages.


The use of relaxation for whiplash cannot be recommended because of limited scientific evidence. More research is required.