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Whiplash Injury

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a common term for sudden acceleration-deceleration forces on

the neck from being rear-ended or side impact motor vehicle collisions, diving accidents and/or other accidents.

The range of symptoms resulting from whiplash is termed Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD). WAD injuries are graded on a severity scale of between 0 – 4.

Quebec Task Force Classification of Grades of WAD

Grade 0 – No pain or discomfort. No physical signs of injury.

Grade 1 – Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness. No physical signs of injury.

Grade 2 – Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness and some physical signs of injury such as point tenderness or trouble turning the head.

Grade 3 – Pain, stiffness or tenderness and neurological signs of injury, such as changes to reflexes or weakness in the arms.

Grade 4 – Pain and fracture or dislocation of the neck.

Whiplash Symptoms

Neck pain or stiffness is the most common symptom and can occur immediately after the injury or even after a few days.

Other symptoms:

  • Headaches

  • Pain in the shoulders and arms

  • Dizziness

  • Pins and needles

  • Numbness

  • Weakness in hands

  • Altered visual and auditory symptoms

  • Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties)

  • Difficulty concentrating

Whiplash injury recovery: a self-help guide

The booklet developed by the University of Queensland, aims to help people with whiplash injury on their recovery process. It provides comprehensive information on whiplash associated disorders, exercise program which has been proven to assist in reducing neck pain, and advice of managing the neck to prevent unnecessary strain and aid in recovery. Download the guide (PDF, 4.4MB)

Whiplash treatment

  • Gradually return to normal activities as the neck improves (work, recreational, social)

  • Neck and shoulder exercises

  • Stay active

  • Pain medications in the early stages might be necessary

  • Detailed information in available in the self-help guide above

Physiotherapy treatment

For chronic and complex Whiplash Associated Disorders, self-management might no longer be adequate. Seeking help from a physiotherapist would be required. Here is what you should be expecting during a physiotherapy visit.

  • History taking

  • Assessment of neck, upper back, shoulder movements

  • Neurological assessment if required

  • Neck and shoulder muscle releases

  • Joint mobilizations

  • Neck and shoulder strengthening

  • Ergonomic and postural advice

An injury will cause pain. However, the pain experienced during the recovery phase does not necessarily means more injury will occur. Keeping active plays an important role in the road to recovery!

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