Whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) is a common term to describe injuries to the structures in the neck after a sudden acceleration-deceleration mechanism, such as a motor vehicle accident (or getting dumped in surf). This can cause severe pain and disability.
Common symptoms of acute WAD can include neck pain and stiffness but some people may also experience arm pain, headaches, dizziness, neurological deficits and sensory impairments, such as hypersensitivity to touch/temperature. A fracture and/or dislocation in the neck may also occur from a severe injury. The shock of the traumatic event may also result in psychological distress and impairments, such as anxiety, which poses additional challenges to recovery and shown to exacerbate symptoms.
It is common for the range and severity of symptoms, as well as, recovery to vary among different people with acute WAD. Prognosis can be largely presumed by the presentation of earlier symptoms post-injury. However, an active management and lifestyle, with normal activities of daily living and return to work, as much as possible is encouraged early. This is known to speed up the potential for maximum recovery.
Your Physiotherapist will be able to assess your impairments and assist your recovery. A thorough physical examination can include an assessment of your neck movements, palpation, joint mobilisation, motor control, neurological and neurotension testing, as well as, sensorimotor tests such as balance and proprioception. A questionnaire may be used to monitor and evaluate your progress.
Your physiotherapy management will be specific to you and informed by your presentation, high quality research and clinical guidelines. Treatment typically includes advice/education, manual therapy, and an exercise programme. This will aim to reduce pain, disability and improve function. Management for acute WAD typically involves a multi-disciplinary approach and your physiotherapist will coordinate your care with your GP and other professionals as necessary.
Our Physiotherapists at Bend + Mend in Sydney’s CBD understand how injuries after an accident can be debilitating and traumatic. We are able to help you get on the mend quickly and maximise your recovery so get in touch now.
State Insurance Regulatory Authority: Guidelines for the management of acute whiplash-associated disorders – for health professionals. Sydney: third edition 2014
Wiangkham, T., Duda, J., Haque, S., Madi, M., & Rushton, A. (2015). The Effectiveness of Conservative Management for Acute Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) II: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. PloS one, 10(7), e0133415.