Whiplash Associated Disorder

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Whiplash Associated Disorder

A Guide to Whiplash Associated Disorders (WADs)

Treatment for injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions in Alberta are regulated by the Alberta Regulation Insurance Act and specifically under the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation. Under these regulations a claimant must submit their claim within ten days of their collision by submitting an AB1 form. Following assessment by a health care practitioner an AB2 form is submitted by that health care practitioner outlining the diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Historical Perspective

The term “whiplash” was initially used in symposium in 1928 and was first published in 1945.   This diagnosis was a natural progression from “railway spine”, an injury to the lower back suffered by people of the 1800s in low impact collisions of rail cars as they linked together.  Railway spine was a controversial diagnosis which led to the diagnosis of “compensation neurosis” and “traumatic neurosis” to describe the discrepancy between the mechanism of injury and the severity of symptoms.  The initial understanding of the mechanism of whiplash was of hyperflexion followed by hyperextension of the cervical spine. This understanding was corrected in 1955 to reflect the modern understanding of hyperextension followed by hyperflexion as the mechanism of injury.

When you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered injury to you cervical spine, thoracic spine, or lumbar spine, you are diagnosed for the purposes of your motor vehicle insurance with a WAD or whiplash associated disorder injury. The Insurance Regulation Act was amended several years ago to include thoracic and lumbar diagnoses under the WAD classifications. The classification of WAD injuries and insurance implications are outlined here.

WAD 1   Complaints of tenderness or stiffness only, no pain complaints. No physical signs.

10 treatments including physical therapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic treatment are pre-approved.

WAD 2   Complaints of neck pain, tenderness or stiffness. Physical signs include decreased range of motion, tenderness to palpation over the spine, and altered muscle recruitment patterns. More severe cases of WAD 2 may present with general sensory hyperalgesia, and/or psychological distress.

21 treatments including physical therapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic treatment are pre-approved.

WAD 3   Findings consistent with WAD 2 but also include physical signs of neurological conduction loss including decreased deep tendon reflexes, muscle weakness and sensory loss along a spinal distribution.

WAD 4   Fracture or dislocation

Treatment is considered to be outside of the protocol and is determined based on recommendations by the healthcare provider. In this case the claimants extended health care benefits become the primary payer for treatment.

A physical therapist can help you to navigate the insurance process and provide treatment to manage pain, stiffness and neurological findings, as well as facilitate return to sport, work, and ADLs