‘Whiplash-associated disorders’ (WAD) is the term given to the variety of symptoms often reported by patients following acceleration/deceleration injury to the neck. The chief complaint is neck pain but neck stiffness, dizziness, paraesthesia/anaesthesia in the upper quadrant, headache and arm pain are also commonly reported.

Whiplash injury following a road traffic crash is quite common. Recent figures suggest more than 300 persons per 100,000 are seen in emergency departments every year in Europe and North America, and in Australia -comprising ∼75% of all survivable road traffic crash injuries.

The management of WAD varies to some extent depending upon whether the condition is in the early acute stages (usually defined as 0–12 weeks) or a chronic condition has already developed (>12 weeks post-injury).  Most recovery occurs in the first 2–3 months, therefore early treatment is critical because this time frame offers the opportunity to potentially prevent the development of a chronic condition.

The mainstay of management for acute WAD is to encourage the patient to return to usual activity and exercise. Exercise is superior to restricting movement with a soft collar. In fact here is strong evidence that immobilization (collars, rest) is completely ineffective for the management of acute WAD.

At John Goetze Physical Therapy, we see a great number of patients with Whiplash-associated disorders, and recommend 5 Things to keep in mind after a car accident:

  1. Go to the urgent care or a primary care doctor to get evaluated and to determine whether x-rays, MRI’s or additional testing or imaging needs to take place.
  1. Ice. It is a natural anti-inflammatory. Use it for 10 minutes at a time on the area of pain or discomfort. Ice multiple times a day for at least a week after the accident occurred.
  1. Contact us at John Goetze Physical Therapy. We can provide a full body assessment of your head, neck, and spine and determine your best treatment plan.
  1. If you’re cleared by your doctor, make sure to keep your body moving. Gentle movements including walking or cycling on a stationary bike can really help the circulation in your body and prevent your muscles and joints from stiffening up more. Having guidance from our staff at John Goetze Physical Therapy can lead you towards optimal recovery.
  1. Stay positive! Car accidents can be stressful, affecting your daily life, work and sleep. Remember it may take a minimum of 6-8 weeks after any injury for tissue to heal. Getting an assessment as soon as possible can help to speed up your recovery.

Reference: Journal of Physiotherapy