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Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD)

Whiplash associated disorder refers to injury sustained to the neck from an acceleration/ deceleration accident. Commonly seen in motor vehicle accidents, this can result in injury to the boney and soft tissue structures in the neck and lead to a variety of different symptoms such as pain and disability.

whiplash injury mechanism

Classification of Whiplash

In 1995 the Quebec task force developed a classification system to help clinicians assess whiplash injuries. Allowing for more accurate diagnosis, as well as directing the treatment approach, based on the severity of the grade.

The Quebec Task Force classification provides a way of screening and grading the severity of the injury, these grades include:

  • Grade 1 – Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness, normal range of motion
  • Grade 2 – Neck complaint, with point tenderness and decrease in range of motion.
  • Grade 3 – Neck pain, tenderness, decreased range of motion, and neurological signs e.g. numbness, tingling, weakness.
  • Grade 4 – Fracture or dislocation


Getting assessed to rule out fracture or dislocation is essential if you have sustained a whiplash injury. Once it is deemed safe for care, the guidelines recommend patients be aided in:

  • Pain management through advice on how to manage symptoms
  • Rehabilitative exercise and muscle re-education to re-train and strengthen injured muscles
  • Working towards a return to usual activities as soon as possible is essential for a better recovery after sustaining this type of injury

Other options to complement active care include:

  • Thoracic Spinal manipulation/Mobilisation to reduce pain and improve joint mobility through the spine, this can be achieved by a quick thrust (manipulation) or a slow, more rhythmical way (mobilisation) to improve joint function.
  • Trigger point dry needling is where a fine acupuncture needle is inserted into tight and painful muscles to deactivate trigger points and decrease pain symptoms.
  • Kinesio taping offers some external support to the neck to increase confidence in movement and potentially offload some of the tissues.
  • Manual therapy to address related muscle spasms and increase pain-free motion in the neck and mid-back
treatment of whiplash

Regular sessions to review progress is important to ensure that your recovery is on the right track, with guideline suggestions of acute whiplash management being 7 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks and then 12 weeks (unless resolved sooner)

Our chiropractors are well trained in the assessment of whiplash associated disorder, we are up to date with all of the relevant evidence and clinical guidelines to give you the best chance of recovery.