Whiplash is a common term for sudden acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck as a result of rear-end or side impact motor vehicle collisions, diving accidents and/or other mishaps.

These forces may result in bony or soft tissue injuries such as discs, ligaments, tendons, neck muscles, and nerve roots.

Other terms:

  • neck strain
  • acceleration flexion-extension neck injury
  • soft tissue cervical hyperextension injury


What is Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD)?

WAD is a term used to describe a range of symptoms resulting from whiplash. These can vary from no symptoms to severe.

WAD injuries are usually graded on a severity scale between 0-4.


(Quebec Task Force Classification of Grades of WAD)

Grade 0

No pain or discomfort. No physical signs of injury.

Grade 1

Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness. No physical signs of injury.

Grade 2

Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness and some physical signs of injury such as point tenderness or trouble turning the head.

Grade 3

Pain, stiffness or tenderness and neurological signs of injury, such as changes to reflexes or weakness in the arms.

Grade 4

Pain and fracture or dislocation of the neck.


Whiplash symptoms

The most common symptom after a whiplash injury is neck pain or stiffness. This can occur immediately after the injury or even after a few days.

Other symptoms may include:

  • headaches
  • pain in the shoulders and arms
  • dizziness
  • altered sensation such as pins and needles or numbness
  • weakness
  • visual and auditory symptoms
  • dysphagia
  • concentration difficulties