Welcome to the Mobility Plus Chiropractic patient resource for whiplash injury diagnosis and treatment in Oakville
A full recovery from a whiplash injury can take time. Be patient, you’ll get through this.
Whiplash can be a major source of neck pain. It’s most common results from a rear-end car collision. It can also be caused by physical abuse, sports injuries, falls, or amusement park rides. It’s an injury to the neck as a result of forceful, rapid, back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Another term for whiplash is neck strain or sprain. However, the mechanism of the injury dictates the differentiation of the diagnosis. Whiplash is characterized by the collection of symptoms that occur. The intervertebral joints, discs, and vertebral ligaments and tissues, muscles, and nerve roots may move beyond their normal range of motion and become damaged.
Symptoms may not appear right off the bat, so it’s important to pay close attention to any physical changes and sensations for a few days following any accident. Whiplash is thought of as a relatively mild condition in most cases, however it can result in long-term pain and dysfunction.
When to seek professional help
You should see your doctor or a therapist skilled in whiplash assessment and treatment immediately following any car accident, sports injury or other trauma, if you are experiencing any neck pain or other whiplash symptoms. It’s vital to have a prompt and accurate diagnosis and to rule out facture or major soft tissue damage that can cause prolonged dysfunction, pain or worsen symptoms.
Clinically relevant anatomy for whiplash injuries
Whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) affect a variety of anatomical structures of the cervical spine. The structures involved or damaged are dependent on the force and direction of impact.
Injury to any of these tissues can cause secondary oedema, haemorrhage, and inflammation. Causes of pain can involve any of the following tissues:
- joints: zygapophyseal joints, Atlanto-axial joint, Atlanto-occipital joint
- intervertebral discs and endplate cartilage
- various muscles
- spine related ligaments: Alar ligament, Anterior atlanto-axial ligament, Anterior atlanto-occipital ligament, Apical ligament, Anterior longitudinal ligament, Transverse ligament of the atlas
- bones: Atlas, Axis, vertebrae (C3-C7)
- nervous systems structures: nerve roots, spinal cord, brain, sympathetic nervous system
- the vascular system structures: internal carotid and vertebral artery
- proximal joints and tissues: Temporomandibular joint, thoracic spine, ribs, shoulder complex
What are the causes of whiplash injury?
A whiplash injury may result from:
- Car accidents. Rear-end collisions are a major cause of whiplash.
- Falls. Any fall such as those when horseback riding or cycling and involving rapid forward and backward, or side-to-side movement of the head and neck can result in whiplash injury.
- Physical abuse or assault. Whiplash can result if someone is punched or shaken. It’s an injury seen in shaken baby syndrome.
- Contact sports. Contact sports and related collisions can sometimes cause whiplash.
- Amusement park ride. The whip-like movements caused during rides at amusement parks can also result in whiplash injury.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Symptoms of whiplash injuries may not present themselves from hours to days following the initial traumatic event. However, people who do develop a whiplash associated disorder, may present with one or more of the following symptoms:
Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD)
The term “whiplash injury” was first coined in 1928. It defined acceleration-deceleration injuries occurring to the cervical spine or neck region. Later it was adjusted to become the term known as whiplash-associated disorders (WAD). Today, the definition has become refined to describe a collection of neck-related symptoms following an injury mechanism involving a whip-like movement of the head and neck.
Whiplash Injury (WAD) Classification System
Whiplash injuries are classified based on severity of injury and are done so as follows:
WAD 1: Complaint of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs upon examination.
WAD 2: Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness AND musculoskeletal signs upon examination.
Musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of movement and point tenderness.
WAD 3: Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness AND neurological sign upon examination.
Neurological signs include decreased or absent tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits.
WAD 4: Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness AND fracture or dislocation upon examination and advanced imaging.
Whiplash Clinical Prediction Rule
A Clinical Prediction Rule (CPR) is a tool used by professionals to predict the eventual outcome of the injury, for example, the possibility of a person to have a have full recovery, mild, moderate, or severe pain and dysfunction after a whiplash injury.
Researchers have found a CPR for whiplash injury following motor vehicle accidents to be reproducible and accurate. Follow this link to access the original research on the implementation of a whiplash injury clinical prediction rule.
How is whiplash diagnosed?
Typically injuries and damage to soft tissues such as the muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs cannot be seen on standard X-rays. However, specialized imaging tests like CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can highlight damage that could be causing the symptoms of whiplash injury.
Alternate diagnoses include:
- cervical spine fracture
- carotid artery dissection
- herniated disc
- spinal cord injury
- subluxation of the cervical spine
- muscle strain
- facet injury
- ligamentous injury
- pain secondary to mass, tumour or infection
What is the best treatment for whiplash?
Whiplash injury may be treated medically with pain medication and non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). However, physical therapy and manual therapy plays a crucial role in recovery and should be integrated immediately.
Lucky for you, a lot can be done on your own to help manage your whiplash injury. Please follow the link and read this article our whiplash expert has put together: 6 Steps For Recovery After A Car Accident Injury
Our recommendation to you is to consult with our expert on whiplash and motor vehicle accident injuries Dr. Justin Guy. He has spent years helping people overcome mild to severe injuries following car accidents and severe traumatic injury. As well, he himself was involved in a serious car accident in which he was crushed by a transport truck on the highway. He has been through it all as a patient and a doctor. This event led to him becoming involved in the industry as an expert assessor of functional capacity and a highly sought after expert witness in many motor vehicle accident injury cases. He has been where you are and is more than capable of guiding you through the process to reach a full recovery.