Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) is a common injury sustained with any high velocity impact event such as a car accident, sports injury or blow to the head from a falling object. The most common cause of WAD is a car accident, in which one car is struck from behind or the side by another. The energy of the impact passes through the colliding cars to the passengers. The amount of energy is determined by the weight of each of the cars and the speed they are travelling.
The most common symptoms of WAD are neck pain and headaches that can be constant or motion-induced. There may be up to 48 hours delay of symptoms onset from the initial injury. Other associated symptoms include a feeling of instability in the neck and neurological symptoms, dizziness, tinnitus, visual disturbances, difficulty sleeping due to pain and difficulty concentrating/bad memory.
If you think you have sustained a WAD it is important that you visit your doctor or emergency department where you will be further assessed and treated accordingly. Most people will not require an x-ray or MRI and will not require admission to hospital. It is usually not possible to know the exact cause of neck pain in the days or weeks following a whiplash injury. We know the muscles and ligaments get strained and are probably inflamed, but they usually heal within six to ten weeks. Pain that lasts longer is usually due to deeper problems such as injury to the facet joints or disc.
Whiplash symptoms generally tend to resolve relatively quickly with 85% of patients making a full recovery within six months. However, symptoms can sometimes become more chronic and debilitating in a minority of people.
Treatment for whiplash includes pain medications prescribed by your doctor and physiotherapy. A chartered physiotherapist can provide various treatments such as manual therapy/massage, dry needling, electrotherapy and prescriptive rehabilitation exercises to help resolve your symptoms.