What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a non-medical term used to describe neck pain following an injury typically to the soft tissues of the neck (specifically ligaments, tendons, and muscles).
Whiplash is caused by an abnormal motion or force applied to the neck that causes movement beyond the neck’s normal range of motion. It is usually caused by a flexion-extension motion of the neck that pulls and strains the neck muscles and ligaments.
Whiplash and neck pain can stem from any type of motor vehicle accident. Rear end collisions are the most common and in this type of accident the body (trunk) is thrust forwards, this causes the natural curves of the upper back and neck to be reversed and causes an enormous ‘compression force’ on the neck structures. Our Physiotherapists treat many Whiplash injuries that are covered by ICBC.
This excessive neck movement also strains muscles, ligament and tendons in the neck, all resulting in pain and muscle guarding/spasm. With the passage of time the pathology (tissue damage) will heal, but the pain can be everlasting. The pain is often due to the muscle weakness that develops over time from not using your neck properly. Our experienced Physiotherapists at Shelbourne Physiotherapy in Victoria can identify which muscles are not functioning properly, and which muscles have been damaged due to your injury or accident. Our rehabilitation program then goes about correcting this weakness, improving your neck function resulting typically in a reduction in your pain and symptoms.
Whiplash happens in motor vehicle accidents, sporting activities, accidental falls, and physical assaults.
What is WAD (Whiplash Associated Disorder)?
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.
(Quebec Task Force Classification of Grades of WAD)
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.
Other symptoms may include:
- Pain in the Shoulders and Arms
- Dizziness, vertigo and balance problems
- Altered sensation such as pins and needles or numbness
- Visual and auditory symptoms
- Dysphagia (diificulty swallowing)
- Concentration difficulties