Answer: The term ‘whiplash’ (also known as whiplash associated disorder or WAD) describes a collection of symptoms which can occur following trauma to the neck, often after a motor vehicle accident, diving accident, etc. The forces involved in these accidents can result in a variety of symptoms, such as neck pain, headaches, dizziness and arm and upper back pain.
Symptoms of whiplash can occur immediately after the accident or may be delayed a few hours to a few days. While many people recover in a few days, others have persistent symptoms which can take weeks to months to improve. With whiplash, the number and intensity of symptoms can vary significantly from person to person. And, similarly, the rate at which people recover varies widely, as well.
In seeking help for a whiplash associated disorder, it is important to find a health care provider who is knowledgeable about the current best scientific evidence for treatment of this condition. Studies have shown that neck treatments which are based on best-available scientific evidence result in better patient outcomes.
In addition, the treating health care provider should have the experience and skill sets necessary to safely and effectively classify and treat your whiplash injury, including a thorough assessment process, frequent re-evaluations and the ability and knowledge of why and where to refer should additional testing or specialty evaluation be needed.
Your treating physician or therapist should be able to help you answer the following : Will I get better? What are my chances for a full recovery? Can I do the same activities as before the accident? Is it safe? Do I have any limitations?
As mentioned earlier, it is important to keep in mind that each patient is different and that recovery from whiplash can vary widely among patients. Some people recover in days, some in a few months, a few take years and a minority have persistent symptoms for much longer. While some limitations in work and daily activities may occur in the early and mid stages of recovery, staying as active as possible and learning to control your whiplash associated symptoms with exercises and activity modification are key to returning to a normal lifestyle.
Over the last 25 years of practice as a chiropractic physician, I have applied these principles in a progressive fashion as the scientific evidence has evolved. I continue to monitor the latest best-practice, evidence-based treatments for whiplash associated disorders and apply these concepts in the management of my patients.
In summary, empowering the patient to become actively involved in their own treatment with individualized home exercises and modification of daily work and home activities combined with office-based manual, manipulative and physical therapy modalities is the optimum path to take to assure as quick and full a recovery as possible.
Mitchell F. Miglis, DC, Cert. MDT