Whiplash Associated Disorder: Information, Answers and Self-Help.

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Whiplash Associated Disorder This leaflet provides information, answers and self-help strategies regarding whiplash injury.


What is Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD)? Whiplash associated disorder (WAD) is the sudden forwards, backwards or sideways movement of the neck causing soft tissue injury to neck and shoulders structures. Most whiplash associated disorder’s do not cause lasting damage and are a short term problem with symptoms lasting for few weeks to months.

What causes a whiplash associated disorder A sudden fast movement of the head in one direction and then another. For example: A road traffic accident. Falling off a bike, horse or seat. During contact sports such as rugby.

Understanding whiplash Research has shown that improving understanding and early movement can significantly improve your symptoms. It may take six to 12 hours for symptoms to become apparent and they may temporarily worsen over the next few days but it is important to know this is a normal response of your body to injury and these symptoms will resolve following the correct advice.

WHAT CAN I DO? Symptoms you may feel Pain and aching in neck, shoulders and sometimes lower back. Reduced movement in your neck. Sensory changes such as pins and needles in your arms. Headaches. Muscle spasms.

Treatment for Whiplash associated disorder WAD is resolved by reducing pain and stiffness and allowing the normal healing process to occur. The most important thing is to keep moving. Sometimes you may need pain relief to move, but regaining movement as early as possible will help your symptoms settle quicker. Resting for more than a day or two may cause symptoms to last for longer.

Exercises for you to try




Side bends

Every hour gently move your neck in each direction as shown in the pictures. Gradually try and increase the range of movement over time. You will not cause damage to your neck by moving it as shown. On a scale of zero to 10, if zero is no pain, try and stay between zero and four out of 10 pain. If you experience worsening pain during and after exercise make sure your health care practitioner is aware.

SHOULD YOUR SYMPTOMS NOT IMPROVE Control pain. Short term pain relief can help keep pain controlled and allow you to move more and carry out normal every day activities sooner. Seek advice from your GP if needed regarding pain medication.

Physiotherapy. A physiotherapist can help you by giving you specific advice and exercises tailored to your individual needs. They can also offer other treatments to aid recovery such as manual therapy and ergonomic advice.

Hot and cold: Applying an ice pack can help reduce inflammation, however do not apply directly to skin wrap in a towel and apply for 10-15 minutes. Heat can help reduce muscle tension using a wheat bag, hot water bottle or warm bath or shower can aid pain relief.

When to seek further advice Recovery times will vary between everyone but we advise you seek further advice should your symptoms: If your symptoms should worsen Persist for longer than six weeks

Look after your posture. Try to reduce prolonged positions and aim to change position every 20 minutes. When sitting try to ensure you are supporting your lower back to prevent you slouching or rounding your shoulders and leaning your head forward.

Develop worsening headaches, visual disturbances, nauseas, vomiting, confusion or worsening altered sensations such as pins and needles or numbness.

Visit our website for more information and advice:

www.provide.org.uk/service/physiotherapy-outpatients If you need this leaflet in braille, audio, large print or another language, please contact our Customer Service Team on: 0300 303 9951 / 0300 303 9952 or by email at: provide.customerservices@nhs.net

Provide Corporate Offices 900 the Crescent Colchester Business Park Colchester Essex C04 9YQ

T: 0300 303 9999 E: provide.enquiries@nhs.net www.provide.org.uk

PLA-2754-1833-01 ME-LE-015

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