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.
Neck pain or stiffness is the most common symptom and can occur immediately after the injury or even after a few days.
Pain in the shoulders and arms
Pins and needles
Weakness in hands
Altered visual and auditory symptoms
Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties)
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)
Gradually return to normal activities as the neck improves (work, recreational, social)
Neck and shoulder exercises
Pain medications in the early stages might be necessary
Detailed information in available in the self-help guide above
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.
Assessment of neck, upper back, shoulder movements
Neurological assessment if required
Neck and shoulder muscle releases
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!