Hyperflexion and Whiplash Associated Disorder


Whiplash trauma occurs with sudden trauma to the head and neck relative to other parts of the body, typically during vehicular collisions or other mishaps. The term Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) describes the cluster of signs and symptoms resulting from this type of injury, which may include neck pain, stiffness, tenderness, decreased range of motion, point tenderness, headache and neurological implications.

When patients arrive to the emergency room or at their primary care provider’s office following an accident, approximately 90 % of those with whiplash injuries are diagnosed as having a WAD- 2. Grade-2 WAD is assigned to whiplash injuries with neck stiffness or pain with restricted cervical ranges of motion, musculoskeletal signs and substantial interference with normal activities of daily living. As these injuries and symptoms fall well within the scope of chiropractic care, this is the type of whiplash injury that practitioners encounter most. Grade 2 WAD injuries typically resolved within a 6-month to a 2-year period with 10% having long-term residuals of a varying degree.

Although most cases settle down with time, a significant group of injured patients suffer from recurring symptoms years post injury. With the combined efforts of the Quebec Task Force followed by the most recent Bone and Joint Decade Study, which took over 10 years to complete, this body of research has greatly increased our understanding of this complex disorder. The application of innovative methods of assessment and care has also contributed in reducing the long-term disability and recovery time through minimizing the use of ineffective forms of treatment.

Injured tissues require undergoing three stages for recovery to occur. The first stage of recovery includes the inflammatory phase, the second; the repair phase followed by the remodelling phase being the end process of tissue healing. During trauma, damage occurs to the holding elements of the spine such as ligaments, facet joints, joint capsules and muscles along with its associated neuroautonomic structures. This greatly increases the potential towards altering the spinal biomechanics. Consequently, a common cause of unresolving WAD-2 cases includes undiagnosed altered biomechanics incurred during trauma.

This altered biomechanical state is often in the forefront impeding normal resolution of complaints. Unless one has a qualified practitioner in the field of biomechanics, this increases the likelihood of a poor outcome. Early intervention is also a key factor to a better prognosis. Whether acute, sub-acute or chronic, the normalizing of altered biomechanics is imperative to the successful outcome of rehabilitative measures.

In addition, Class 3 laser technologies are increasingly being utilized effectively in the treatment of whiplash related disorders by promoting tissue regeneration and stabilization, thus enhancing the recovery process. The combined effort of skilled chiropractic care and laser application with the Bioflex system is showing promising results when compared with standard treatment currently utilized in the field of whiplash traumatology. Laser treatments are being used to increase cellular mitosis (division), thus enhancing tissue regeneration. In essence, light energy is converted into biochemical energy, the result being normal cell morphology and restored cellular function. This is a cumulative effect and requires sufficient stimulation in order to initiate a response. Worldwide research to date has failed to record any negative effect from this process.

The above recommended combined treatment methods are intended to support the best clinical outcome including rapid recovery from pain, impairment and disability; reduced cost, specifically from reduced use of ineffective treatments; more rapid return of patients to full functional capacity; increased patient safety and increased satisfaction among patients and health care payers.