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 (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.
Accidents - This mostly includes car accidents.
Physical abuse with objects or violent force.
Shaken baby syndrome - People tend to play with their children by tossing and catching them in the air. This might lead to serious complications in the future.
Minor injuries to intervertebral discs and cartilage.
Sports activities that cause a collision with the other players are the most important contributing factors for whiplash injuries. This might include Sumo wrestling, karate, football, basketball, etc.
Paraspinal muscle spasms or contusions of the intra-articular meniscus.
After the initial injury, it might take up to 48 hours for the symptoms to arise.
Sleeping patterns get altered.
Restricted spinal motions.
Muscular movements get altered.
Eye movements get disturbed.
Balance is lost while walking.
Temporomandibular joint pain.
Tinnitus (continuous ringing sound in ears).
Painful musculoskeletal system.
Loss of lordosis. Lordosis is the normal curvature of the spine, inwardly. Due to whiplash injuries, the normal curvature of the spine may be disturbed.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Severe pain and certain disabilities.
Neck pain and stiffness. Minor neck movements tend to increase pain.
Numbness sensation in the arms.
Severe headache and migraines.
General body weakness and fatigue.
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.
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.
Pre-existing back and neck pain.
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.
Deep muscle therapy is of high benefit for neck and back pain.
Massaging the trigger point (the point where more pain is initiated) can give good relief.
Ultrasonic waves are known to relieve pain.
Traction procedures to reduce head protrusion.
Motor control exercises.
Motor control exercises.
Exercises which strengthen the posture.
Applying heat and cold packs every three hours would provide instant relief.
Achiropractorwill perform spinal manipulation techniques to restore the normal functioning of the neck.
Cervical foam collars can be used to keep the neck still and restrict the movements of the neck.
Acupuncture - It involves the insertion of fine needles in specific areas to relieve pain.
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.
Active: The patient can independently perform the exercise.
Passive: The patient completely requires help from a therapist.
Active assisted ROM exercises: The patient can partially perform the exercise but needs the help of a therapist to complete it.
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:
Lying on the stomach.
Prone on elbows.
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.
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.
Sit upright and always use a seat belt while driving.
Buying a car with a good rear crash rating will help.
Air bags can help to reduce the impact on the spine.
Head restraint (head rest) is designed in a way to restrict head movements during collision. The top of a head restraint should reach as high as the top of your head.
Cervical spine fracture.
A herniated disc.
Spinal cord injury.
Subluxation of the cervical spine.
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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