Whiplash Associated Disorders (WADs) occur frequently in North America and Europe, with an estimated incidence of >3/1000 and represent 6% of patients presenting with neck symptoms in physical therapy clinics. The Quebec Task Force on Whiplash-Associated Disorders defined whiplash as “an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck which may result from rear-end or side impact, predominantly in motor vehicle collisions, but also from diving accidents, and from other mishaps. The energy transfer may result in bony or soft tissue injuries (whiplash injuries), which in turn may lead to a wide variety of clinical manifestations (whiplash-associated disorders).”

Whiplash grading is based on the severity of symptoms and extent of damage that occurs due to injury. In Grade I (mild) strains, patients complain of neck pain, stiffness, and tenderness without any loss of muscle control or motion. For moderate, Grade II, injuries the syndrome is worsened with the addition of musculoskeletal signs, such as loss of range of motion, strength, and endurance. In the most severe WAD, Grade III, patients present with neurological signs along with the aforementioned deficits.  Grades I and II are the most commonly sustained injuries and can result in chronic, debilitating impairments lasting upwards of 6 months and characterized by chronic neck pain, fatigue, dizziness, concentration difficulties, and headaches.

Physical therapy treatment is shown to be effective in reducing pain and disability at a faster rate than those forgoing active treatment who opt for educational reassurance on a favorable prognosis with the ability to resume activities as tolerated. Recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of physical therapy over standard medical care, or passive treatment, at 6 week and 6 month follow ups with patients reporting lower pain and disability. More importantly, physical therapy intervention has been shown to have increased effectiveness when administered within the first 4 days of injury compared to waiting 2 weeks to start active management. This highlights the importance of early intervention post injury to stop the pain cycle before it truly starts.

Treatment at The Institute for Sports and Spine Rehabilitation starts with education and postural retraining and will progress and expand as symptoms resolve. Based on current research, we strongly believe in the benefit of hands- on intervention, including soft tissue massage techniques and low grade joint mobilizations to the affected areas that may have stiffened as a result of the underlying injury. A slow progression from active motion to resisted weight training will get you back to your previous activities in a safe and effective manner. If you have suffered a whiplash or any other neck injury, give our office a call. Our goal is to get you back to your daily activities, as well as the activities you love, pain-free.


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