Whiplash-associated disorders, or WAD, describe injuries sustained from sudden acceleration/deceleration movements. It is a common outcome after a motor vehicle collision but can also be caused by sports injuries, falls, or assaults. Whiplash refers to the mechanism of the injury, while WAD refers to the presence of symptoms like pain, stiffness, muscle spasm, and headaches. A WAD prognosis is unpredictable, with some cases remaining acute with a full recovery, while others progress to chronic conditions with long-term symptoms and disability. Early intervention recommendations include rest, chiropractic care and physical rehabilitation, massaging and stretching exercises, and an anti-inflammatory diet.
Table of Contents
Cervical hyperextension injuries happen to drivers and passengers of moving, slow-moving (less than 14 miles per hour), and stationary vehicles when struck from behind.
Most WADs are considered soft tissue-based injuries with no fractures.
The injury goes through stages:
Whiplash-associated disorders can be classified through grades by the severity of symptoms, including neck pain, stiffness, occipital headache, cervical, thoracic, and lumbar back pain, upper-limb pain, and paraesthesia.
Some symptoms are thought to be caused by injury to the following structures:
Causes of pain can be from any of these tissues, with the strain of the injury causing secondary edema, hemorrhage, and inflammation.
A chiropractor will identify areas of restricted joint motion, muscle tension, muscle spasm, intervertebral disc injury, and ligament injury.
Our chiropractic team is ready to help you feel your best so you can return to normal activities and get on with your life.
Pastakia, Khushnum, and Saravana Kumar. “Acute whiplash associated disorders (WAD).” Open access emergency medicine: OAEM vol. 3 29-32. 27 Apr. 2011, doi:10.2147/OAEM.S17853
Ritchie, C., Ehrlich, C. & Sterling, M. Living with ongoing whiplash-associated disorders: a qualitative study of individual perceptions and experiences. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 18, 531 (2017). doi.org/10.1186/s12891-017-1882-9
Sterling, Michele. “Whiplash-associated disorder: musculoskeletal pain and related clinical findings.” The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy vol. 19,4 (2011): 194-200. doi:10.1179/106698111X13129729551949
Wong, Jessica J et al. “Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration.” The spine journal: official Journal of the North American Spine Society vol. 16,12 (2016): 1598-1630. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024
Woodward, M N et al. “Chiropractic treatment of chronic ‘whiplash’ injuries.” Injury vol. 27,9 (1996): 643-5. doi:10.1016/s0020-1383(96)00096-4
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