Whiplash is a common term for sudden acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck thus stretching and placing compressive forces on the joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves predominantly in the front and back of the neck. This can cause damage on these structures as the tissues are pushed beyond their limits.
Usually whiplash is the end result of a rear end or side impact motor vehicle collision, diving accidents and other mishaps.
WAD is a term used to describe a range of symptoms resulting from whiplash. These can vary from no symptoms to severe.
WAD injuries are usually graded on a severity scale between 0-4.
- 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.
The most common symptom after a whiplash injury is neck pain or stiffness. This can occur immediately after the injury or even after a few days. Symptoms usually increase over the following 2-4 days and are more prominent at night and first thing in the morning.
Other symptoms may include:
- Pain in the Shoulders and Arms
- Stiffness/ restricted movement in neck
- Head feels heavy- trouble lifting head off pillow
- Altered sensation such as pins and needles or numbness
- Pain during causative activity
- Sharp dull pain (increases with movement or sustained postures)
- R.I.C.E.- beneficial for the first 72 hours of injury, after activities and to treat pain/swelling
- Before treatment a medical assessment should be completed
- Rest from activities that cause pain
- Minimise activities that place large amounts of stress through the neck
- As symptoms/pain decreases increase work load
- Prevent condition from developing into a chronic condition
- Postural exercises- maintain good posture to minimise stress on the neck and stiffness
- Soft tissue massage
- Joint mobilisation