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Whiplash-Associated Disorder - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Published on Mar 27, 2020 and last reviewed on Sep 19, 2020   -  5 min read


Whiplash-associated disorder is a term used to describe injuries to the neck region, mainly caused by road traffic accidents. To know more about its causes, symptoms, and treatment, read the article.

Whiplash-Associated Disorder - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Is a Whiplash-Associated Disorder?

Whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) is the term given for a group of symptoms affecting the neck after a motor vehicle accident. A sudden accident causes the tendons and ligaments of the neck to stretch and tear. The incidence of whiplash injury occurs differently in various parts of the world. Different parts of the head, neck, and spine may be affected. However, depending on the force and direction of impact, the symptoms and complications may vary.

Whiplash-Associated Disorder

What Are the Causes?

What Are the Symptoms?

After the initial injury, it might take up to 48 hours for the symptoms to arise.

  1. Post-traumatic stress.

  2. Psychological depression.

  3. Cognitive dysfunctions.

  4. Sleeping patterns get altered.

  1. Restricted spinal motions.

  2. Muscular movements get altered.

  1. Eye movements get disturbed.

  2. Balance is lost while walking.

It mostly involves soft tissue injuries. The bones may not be affected all the time.

Grades of Whiplash-Associated Disorder:

Grade 0: No problems in the neck and no physical signs.

Grade 1: Stiffness, tenderness, and pain in the neck. No physical signs.

Grade 2: Problems of the neck and musculoskeletal signs.

Grade 3: Problems of the neck and neurological signs.

Grade 4: Problems of the neck along with fracture or dislocation.

What Is Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorder?

A whiplash injury along with psychological problems constitute a chronic whiplash-associated disorder. So, this disorder requires cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a talk therapy that improves emotional regulation and provides different coping strategies for an individual. Through this therapy, many cognitive irregularities can be corrected. It helps to change the attitude of the patient by helping them focus on thoughts, images, and beliefs. This may require the help of a psychotherapist.

Some whiplash injuries get resolved in a few weeks if properly treated. If ignored, it can cause some chronic effects.

What Are the Risk Factors?


Predominantly, it is a soft tissue injury and will not be visible in x-rays. Whiplash can be diagnosed clinically by a thorough history andphysical examination by a doctor. CT scans and MRI scans are required for an accurate diagnosis.


ROM Exercises.

A goniometer is an instrument used to determine the range of motion(ROM) in joints. It can be measured by the flexion and extension of the muscles, tendons, and muscles. It is measured in degrees of a circle. There are three types of ROM exercises.

ROM Exercises

McKenzie Exercises.

Back pain will be present in most cases of whiplash and McKenzie exercises will be of high benefit when coordinated with a fitness therapist. It is contraindicated in patients with spinal fractures and a previous history of spinal surgery. It includes:

McKenzie Exercises

Motor Control Exercises:

The main purpose of motor control exercise is the coordinated and effective use of muscles supporting the spine. It is the best treatment for chronic non-specific back pain.

Motor Control Exercises



Patients suffering from WAD usually have good prognosis. Sometimes, patients may face prolonged difficulty and pain. Some patients have a completely pain-free period and some patients are known to have good mental well-being.

Prevention Whiplash-Associated Disorder


Differential Diagnosis:

To know more about whiplash-associated disorder, talk to a doctor online through phone or video consultation.


Last reviewed at:
19 Sep 2020  -  5 min read




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