Understanding Whiplash Associated Disorders

Whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) describes the symptoms that people can experience due to acceleration-deceleration accidents that cause whiplash. These symptoms can be immediate or latent, and the specific cause may remain unknown, which is why they are sometimes referred to as WADs.

The following is a breakdown of WADs, including the various symptoms and potential treatments.


How Whiplash and WADs Develop

Whiplash car accident injuries are most likely to develop from a rear-end motor vehicle collision (MVC) and can develop within milliseconds. During a rear-end MVC, a bullet vehicle strikes another vehicle. The struck vehicle then quickly accelerates due to the force of impact. This energy passes from the struck vehicle’s frame to the seat and, finally, to drivers and passengers.

The body responds to impact in rear-end MVCs through the torso’s forward displacement and associated upward displacement. The inert head then stays behind as the body jolts forward. As a result of this sudden motion, deformation of the cervical spine takes place, forming an S-shaped curve. Meanwhile, the lower segments extend and the upper segments flex. Throughout this movement, whiplash injuries develop as the head rotates backward while the upper cervical spine extends. The resulting injuries can be mild to severe, and may not become apparent until days after the initial accident.

Symptoms That Victims May Experience

Following a rear-end MVC or another similar accident, some of the common symptoms of whiplash are neck pain, stiffness or limited range of motion, neck instability, headaches, shoulder and upper back pain, numbness or tingling, or weakness. A single symptom may become apparent, but some people may experience multiple symptoms with varying degrees of severity. Additionally, symptoms may come and go.


Other potential symptoms of whiplash and WADs include:

  • Dizziness
  • Emotional changes such as increased irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • Blurred vision or other vision problems
  • Fatigue and sleeping difficulties
  • Ringing in ears
  • Memory and concentration problems

People may also experience difficulty swallowing, chewing, or speaking.

For victims involved in accidents where another’s negligence caused whiplash or WADs symptoms, it may be possible to recover compensation for associated costs with the help of a personal injury lawyer.

Treating Whiplash and WADs

There is currently limited evidence that argues for specific treatments for whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders. Diagnosis is also difficult, particularly if the symptoms are minor or show up long after an accident.

For a majority of people who experience whiplash and WADs symptoms, minor muscle strains and ligament sprains take as little as a few days or weeks to heal on their own. In other cases, symptoms could last for months or years.

If symptoms remain mild to moderate in nature, self-care treatments such as rest, the use of ice packs for reducing pain and swelling, and over-the-counter pain relievers are sufficient. For more severe symptoms, physical therapy, prescription pain medications, and injections may also be needed.

Understanding what whiplash and WADs entail can keep accident victims aware of what to look for following a rear-end MVC or other similar collision.

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