The 31-year-old midfielder was released by Stoke at the end of last season having spent four years at the Britannia Stadium.
He began his career at Oxford, but got his big chance when he was snapped up by Sunderland for an initial £150,000 June 2004.
Whitehead was handed the captain's armband at the Stadium of Light, where he stayed for five years before making is £3million switch to the Potteries during the summer of 2009.
His arrival at the Riverside Stadium came just hours after it was revealed that Moroccan Merouane Zemmama had left the club by mutual consent.
- Sports & Recreation