Movement Key for Whiplash Recovery

After any injury, it's natural to want to avoid certain movements for fear of pain or re-injury. Unfortunately, research shows that for patients with auto injuries, in particular whiplash, this fear avoidance behavior can actually exacerbate symptoms.

Research shows that patients with whiplash who exhibit more fear avoidance beliefs early on after the injury are more likely to show signs of muscle degeneration and chronic symptoms. Restricting your movement impedes your body's ability to properly heal, which may result in long-term disability and pain. The additional whiplash symptoms may cause you to further limit your movements in an ongoing cycle of fear avoidance and pain.

Researchers publishing in the journal Pain recently sought to find ways to help whiplash patients break this cycle. A group of 191 patients with whiplash symptoms lasting at least three months were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: 1) an informational booklet describing the importance of resuming physical activity after auto injury; 2) the same informational booklet as well as discussion with a clinician; 3) the informational booklet plus fear desensitization via imagery and direct exposure to feared movements.

The last group receiving the exposure therapy had the most significant reductions in fear, as well the best improvements in disability and pain. The findings confirm that addressing fear of movement can substantially improve prognosis for whiplash, as we've seen in our Salem patients.

Staying active is crucial for recovery from whiplash, which is why Michel Spinal Rehab and Associates is dedicated to offering active treatments like chiropractic and exercise rehabilitation. Chiropractic care can heal the injured ligaments of your neck to restore mobility and reduce pain. Dr. Geary Michels is a Salem chiropractor experienced in pinpointing the source of neck pain after auto injuries, and creating effective treatment plans to achieve lasting results. Call Michel Spinal Rehab and Associates for Salem auto injury relief today, (503) 399-7607.


Pedler, Ashley and Michele Sterling. “Assessing Fear-Avoidance Beliefs in Patients With Whiplash-associated Disorders: A comparison of 2 measures.” Clinical Journal of Pain 27.6 (2011): 502-7.

Robinson J, et al. The role of fear of movement in subacute whiplash-associated disorders grades I and II. Pain 2013; 154(3): 393-401. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.11.011.

  1. dr Robertson

    Dr. Julia Robertson, DC is a Chiropractic Physician who worked with Michels Spinal Rehab and Associates and who is now the proud owner of Robertson Spinal Rehab & Associates. She provides personal one on one services specializing in spinal manipulation, physiotherapy, nutritional counseling in addition to developing personal rehab programs.