Whiplash Associated Disorders 

What is a Whiplash-Associated Disorder?

Whiplash injuries are a common result of sudden acceleration/deceleration incidents (i.e. car accidents and impact sports). Although the vast majority of whiplash injuries recover quickly, some go on to develop more severe symptoms. The high-velocity movement of the neck and head during whiplash leaves the joints, ligaments and muscles in our neck vulnerable to strains and sprains.

 

Due to the vulnerability of our head and neck, complications can arise beyond neck pain and stiffness. These symptoms are categorised under the term Whiplash-Associated Disorder (WAD). WAD is an umbrella term that encapsulates the whole array of symptoms a person may experience after a whiplash injury.  

Common symptoms include: 

  • Neck and shoulder pain 

  • Reduced neck range of movement 

  • Brain fog and cognitive fatigue 

  • Referred pain into the arms and torso 

  • Pins and needles and altered sensation 

  • Headaches and migraines  

  • Nausea 

  • Dizziness 

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) 

  • Vision disturbances  

  • Changes to taste and smell 

Almost 40% of people who suffer WAD are still reporting symptoms 6 months down the track, with some going on to develop life long complaints. How does something, often so inconsequential at the time, go on to cause so much grief? The answer is that WAD is far more than just a neck injury, which requires the attention of a health professional experienced in the treatment of WAD.  

Our Treatment Approach

 

In your initial appointment, prior to treatment, it is important to determine the severity of your whiplash injury. Our practitioner will first ask questions about your pain and any other symptoms you are currently experiencing. Once a grading (between 0 to 4) has been given to the injury, our practitioner will determine whether any additional referrals are required (e.g. to a General Practitioner, Psychologist or for an X-ray). From here, it is important to gather an understanding of your goals and expectations of the treatment. This allows the practitioner to create a treatment plan with you, where you understand the timeframes and expected recovery timeline.

 

During the treatment of WAD, our practitioner will help you recognise that each person’s recovery experience is different and that the natural course of the condition can go beyond the acute phase (>12 weeks). They will highlight what is and is not important, in addition to things you should avoid during your rehabilitative journey, making sure to answer any questions along the way.

Because the treatment of WAD can sometimes be a little tricky, there are internationally recognised guidelines on how to manage the condition. If you would like to see these guidelines for yourself, follow this link.