Do I Have Whiplash or Whiplash Associated Disorder?

Woman holding neck in pain

Neck pain is the most common symptom of whiplash, but it’s not the only indicator. If you have been in an accident or had your body jolted in a sporting incident, other signs of the condition can include pain in one or both arms, swelling in the neck area, numbness in the arms, pain between the shoulders, in the face or even lower back. Those with pre-existing neck pain are more prone to suffer whiplash.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

Typically, whiplash is diagnosed based upon the patient’s description of symptoms, because soft tissue damage caused by strain does not show up on x-rays in the same way that a broken bone will. There was a time when the treatment for whiplash was to put the patient in a restrictive collar and instruct them to keep activity and movement to a minimum. But recent studies have shown that patients who follow a more normal routine actually recover faster. However, there is no single treatment for whiplash that is widely accepted among doctors so your treatment can vary depending on the chiropractor you consult.

How Long Will My Whiplash Pain Last?

The severity of whiplash varies and it can take days, and in some cases, weeks, for the symptoms to fully appear. Often, it starts as mild stiffness and often goes away after a short time. Research indicates that at least eight out of ten patients who suffer whiplash are symptom-free after a year. But for less than five percent of patients, the symptoms can actually become increasingly worse and debilitating, developing into what is known as “whiplash associated disorder”. This complex of symptoms can include numbness or tingling in the arms, dizziness, tinnitus (or ringing in one’s ears), insomnia, and difficulty concentrating or remembering.

Whiplash associated disorder (WAD) is classified according to severity and duration:

  • WAD 0: no complaints or physical symptoms
  • WAD I: neck complaints but no physical signs
  • WAD II: neck complaints and musculoskeletal signs, such as a limited range of motion or muscle soreness.
  • WAD III: neck complaints and neurological signs
  • WAD IV: neck complaints and fracture or dislocation

Studies have also shown that early treatment of whiplash results in significantly better outcomes than waiting for weeks or months to seek treatment. So even if you are experiencing a slightly sore neck after an accident or sports-related body jarring, consult immediately with your local whiplash injury chiropractor to help prevent the symptoms from getting worse or developing into a chronic, WAD condition.

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