Injury type: Acute

Category: Medical Options

Rating: Not effective

What is it?

Subsequent to whiplash, some people might want to rest and recover from the injury. This is based on the common notion that rest will help in the recovery of any injury.

How does it work?

It is thought resting provides the opportunity for people with whiplash injures to recover. Resting may help in relaxation, avoid aggravating activities (such as poor, sustained posture at work) and minimise any stress that may result from extraneous circumstances.

Is it effective?

It is widely acknowledged that staying active within pain limits, rather than resting, is important for people with whiplash, especially in the early stages. While no high quality study explicitly investigating rest as a treatment option, many studies used rest as a dummy (control or placebo) treatment or part of a large number of other treatments (such as collar, ultrasound), when comparing common treatment options.

A rapid review1 synthesising evidence from highest level primary studies, systematic reviews, and well-conducted clinical practice guidelines identified that rest is not recommended as an initial management option for neck pain including whiplash. Similarly, a clinical commentary2 reviewing recommendations from multiple existing international guidelines supported the advice on staying active and returning to usual activities for acute whiplash. The clinical commentary, drawing on evidence from other research studies, however, does argue that a short period of rest or immobilisation may benefit a small proportion of people sustaining whiplash, especially those who may experience physical activity or exercise induced hyperalgesia.

Generally, resting after whiplash is not preferable. Clinically, however, it is important to consider pain and other symptoms reported by persons with whiplash. By and large it thought that resting, such as staying in bed, should not be encouraged for whiplash injuries which are classified as Grade I. In case of whiplash injuries which are classified as Grade II and III, if persons with whiplash prefer to stay in bed, this should be limited to a handful of days.

Are there any disadvantages?

There is some thought that staying in bed might place the focus on the accident and injuries rather than recovery and healing.

Where do you get it?

While rest can be self prescribed, it is important this is done so in consultation with and advice from a qualified health professional such as doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor etc.


Based on available evidence, rest is not recommended as a treatment for whiplash injuries, especially in the long term. The decision to rest should be made by the health professional (such as a doctor) in consultation with the individual with whiplash.