Understanding and Caring For Whiplash Associated Disorder

Self Portrait: Neck Brace.

Whiplash is a term that’s used to describe injuries that are caused by the sudden distortion of a victim’s neck. It’s also known as “Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD),” which describes the injury and its associated symptoms.

How It’s Caused

Whiplash associated disorder is the result of overextension of the neck. It’s most often the result of being struck from behind—often by a vehicle in an auto accident. In situations like this the victim’s body is pushed forward while the head remains pushed back for an instant, causing the head to rock up and back, leading to tears in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. The muscles then react reflexively to push the head forward, often in an overdone manner, to cause further stretching and rips of the surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of Whiplash Associated Disorder

Symptoms of WAD typically take a while to manifest—generally within six to 12 hours, although some patients feel nothing for an entire day. It is very rare for whiplash symptoms to display immediately after an accident. The symptoms of WAD typically include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the neck
  • Soreness in neck and shoulder muscles
  • Headaches
  • Limited range of motion in the neck

Treating Whiplash Associated Disorder

If you’ve been in a rear-injury accident, it’s imperative that you seek out chiropractic treatment as soon as you are able. In the meantime, you may want to try to keep your neck still to avoid any excess pain. However, many chiropractors believe that there’s no reason to use a neck collar or brace, as mobility will help improve the injury and may even speed up your recovery.

Your chiropractor will probably want to begin a series of treatments right away. The timing is important, because the sooner you receive care for your injury, the lower your risk of developing chronic whiplash. Chronic whiplash disorder describes whiplash symptoms that last for six months or longer, which interferes with your daily life.


Preventing Whiplash Associated Disorder

There’s technically no way to prevent whiplash from occurring, but there are some steps that you can take to decrease your risk. Since most whiplash associated disorder injuries occur after being rear-ended by another vehicle, you should be sure to always use your seat belt any time you’re in a car. You should also take care to make sure that the headrest in your vehicle is adjusted to the correct height to protect your head.

Chiropractors are able to treat whiplash related disorder and all the aches and pains that come along with it. If you’ve been in an auto accident and are suffering from aches and pains, contact your chiropractic team now. They’ll be able to have you back behind the wheel in no time at all.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

Story credit, Photo credit: Self Portrait: Neck Brace. by Jenny LeighIMG_0848 by Rekio. Used under a Creative Commons license.

This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.