Cart 0

What Every Therapist Needs to Know About "Whiplash" (WAD)

Posted by Team NAT on


Whiplash - An Overview


Learn More


Background to Whiplash

Whiplash, more correctly known as whiplash associated disorders (WAD) is a term used, fairly loosely, to describe a neck injury where the head is either suddenly jolted backward and then forward, or forward and then backward, in a whip-like movement, or it may be suddenly and forcibly rotated depending on the angle of the neck when the incident occurs.

This sudden force can stretch and/or tear the muscles and tendons in the neck.

Most commonly this is as a result of a road traffic accident, but it can also be from a sports injury, a fall, or being struck on the head by a heavy object.

As the term whiplash covers a multiple of both symptoms and severities of injury, and with the rise in litigation following motor vehicle accidents, it was thought within the insurance industry that some standardization was needed to define the type and severity of injury.


Whiplash Causes


Quebec Task Force (QTF)

The Canadian car industry led the way, and established a task force of experts to investigate whiplash injuries.

Although it was originally devised to assist the insurance industry, the Quebec Task Force (QTF) criteria are often used as a standard format to define and describe whiplash injuries.

There have been updates, and various other groups have modified the criteria to develop their own standards, but the baseline descriptions are as follows:


No complaint about the neck, no physical sign(s)
Neck complaint of pain, stiffness, or tenderness only, no physical sign(s)
Neck complaint AND musculoskeletal sign(s); musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of motion and point tenderness
Neck complaint AND neurological sign(s); neurological signs include decreased or absent tendon reflexes, weakness, and sensory deficits
Neck complaint AND fracture or dislocation, or damage to the spinal cord



General Treatment Guidelines

Prior to QTF there was controversy within the massage world, with some advocating treatment for whiplash and others identifying whiplash as a contraindication.

The QTF allowed differentiation between the different levels of whiplash and therefore new treatment guidelines.

For a client with grade 4 whiplash massage is strictly contraindicated. To massage a dislocated or fractured neck would be dangerous at all levels and the person with whiplash needs referring to urgent medical care.

Grade 3 whiplash should also be referred to a medical practitioner to rule out any grade 4 injuries, as some of the symptoms may be similar.

The South Australian Centre for Trauma and Injury Recovery produced guidelines for the management of WAD, and this recommended massage for whiplash once the level of whiplash has been established for all but level 4.

Stages of Whiplash

In medical terms, whiplash is divided into four stages.

The acute stage is the first one to two weeks following the initial trauma. This is followed by the early subacute (weeks three to four), and the late subacute (weeks five to six).

At six weeks plus, the whiplash is considered chronic. While most people will recover fully from whiplash injuries the speed of recovery can vary from person to person.

Long Term and Recurring Symptoms

One study reports that up to 50% of patients will still have some symptoms after 12 months, others put this at 65%, whilst the UK NHS suggests just 12%.


For a grade 4 whiplash, massage is strictly contraindicated. If the client presents with any of the following symptoms referral to emergency medical services is necessary for a full checkup: blurring of vision, numbness in shoulders
and arms, pins and needles or tingling and/or weakness in the arms and legs, swelling in the back of the throat or a difficulty in swallowing, or any disturbance to bowel or bladder function.

A client presenting with grade 3 whiplash symptoms should be referred urgently to a medical practitioner to rule out any grade 4 injuries, as some of the symptoms will be similar and massage should wait until they have been given the all clear of severe injury.

Healing Massage

Massage has been used for thousands of years to treat a whole array of conditions and was traditionally passed down through families as part of everyday life.

With the increase in modern medicine two things have happened. Firstly the healing power of massage has been largely forgotten and sidelined, and secondly, with the growth of litigious cultures, the subject area has been politicized and many people have become too scared of "touch" for fear of litigation.

The article above is extracted from Maureen Abson's text "Healing Massage" - a work designed to both educate and empower the qualified massage practitioner wanting a ready reference book for - what may be in some cases - unfamiliar medical conditions.



Find a Trigger Point Professional in your area

More Articles About Neck Pain

More Articles About Whiplash

Trigger Point Tools and Accessories

Dry Needling for Trigger Points

NAT Professional Courses

Online Store



About NAT Courses

As a manual therapist or exercise professional, there is only one way to expand your business - education!

Learning more skills increases the services that you offer and provides more opportunity for specialization.

Every NAT course is designed to build on what you already know, to empower you to treat more clients and grow your practice, with a minimal investment in time and money.

Help Desk


About Niel Asher Education

Niel Asher Education is a leading provider of distance learning and continued education courses.

Established in the United Kingdom in 1999, we provide course and distance learning material for therapists and other healthcare professionals in over 40 countries.

Our courses are accredited by over 90 professional associations and national accreditation institutions including the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Full details of all international course accreditations can be found on our website.  

Printed course materials and other products offered on our websites are despatched worldwide from our 3 locations in the UK (London), USA (Pennsylvania) and Australia (Melbourne).

More About Us



We are honored to have received the 2017 "Excellence in Education" Award from the National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists.

Since 1999 Niel Asher Education has won numerous awards for education and in particular for education and services provided in the field of trigger point therapy.

Read Full Article 


Award Winning Instructors

Niel Asher Healthcare course instructors have won a host of prestigious awards including 2 lifetime achievement honorees - Stuart Hinds, Lifetime Achievement Honoree, AAMT, 2015, and Dr. Jonathan Kuttner, MD, Lifetime Achievement Honoree, NAMTPT, 2014.

Meet the Instructors



NAT courses are accredited for continuing education by over 30 professional associations in North America, United Kingdom, Australia, and European Union countries. These include The National Academy of Sports Medicine, Physical Therapy Board of California, AAFA, National Certification Board for Manual Therapists and Bodyworkers, Sports Therapy Institute, and Myotherapy Australia.

See Full List


NAT Certification

If you are a qualified/licensed manual therapist or exercise/fitness professional you can expand your credentials with NAT certification.

In addition to national accreditation for continued education, each course that we offer includes "NAT Learning Credits". By taking and completing courses you can accumulate NAT credits to qualify for NAT certification.

There are currently 3 levels of NAT certification. Certifying NAT is a valuable way to show your clients that you take continued education seriously, and to promote your skills and qualifications.

About NAT Certification


Niel Asher Technique

Since 1999 the Niel Asher Technique for treating trigger points has been adopted by over 100,000 therapists worldwide, and has been applied to the treatment of a number of common musculoskeletal injuries.

The Niel Asher Technique for treating frozen shoulder was first introduced and published in 1997 and has been widely adopted by therapists and exercise professionals working within elite sports and athletics.

Read More


International Students

Most of our courses are available as either "Printed" or 'Download" editions. When you purchase a download edition, you receive immediate lifetime access to all course material. Course texts can be downloaded and printed if required. 

When you purchase a "Printed" edition, you will also receive free access to the download edition.

We ship Worldwide from locations in the USA, UK, and Australia. Most items are despatched within 24 hours and shipping is FREE for all orders over US$50.



Where to Start?

We offer a range of over 50 courses, presented by some of the worlds leading manual therapists. All courses are reviewed annually, and new courses are regularly added.

Our courses are modular, and designed to build on what you already know. For more information, please visit our "Where to Start?" page.

Start Here














This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 





Related Posts

Gluteus Maximus - Stretching
Gluteus Maximus - Stretching
  Gluteus Maximus Trigger Points - Dr. Jonathan Kuttner M.D.   Weak gluteal muscles have wide-reaching implications...
Read More
Trigger Point Therapy - Treating The Hamstrings
Trigger Point Therapy - Treating The Hamstrings
  Treating Hamstring Tightness and Trigger Points   The hamstrings are amongst the most overworked muscles in the bo...
Read More
Trigger Point Therapy - Runner's Knee Self Help
Trigger Point Therapy - Runner's Knee Self Help
     Patella Taping - Stuart Hinds   Runners Knee is more common in women and prevalent in teenagers Runner’s Kne...
Read More
Trigger Point Therapy - Palmaris Longus
Trigger Point Therapy - Palmaris Longus
Median Nerve Stretch   Pain from Palmaris Longus Trigger Points is typically experienced as a needle-like sensati...
Read More
Trigger Point Therapy - Treating the Hip Adductors
Trigger Point Therapy - Treating the Hip Adductors
  Treating the hip adductors - Stuart Hinds   The adductor magnus is the largest of the adductor muscle group, ...
Read More
Trigger Points and
Trigger Points and "Pseudo" Nerve Entrapments explained ...
    In this video (above) Stuart Hinds talks about the trigger points that often present with similar symptoms to co...
Read More
Trigger Point Therapy - Yoga and Stretching
Trigger Point Therapy - Yoga and Stretching
   Internationally recognised Yoga Instructor Yoni Kedem presents the NAT online course Yoga Anatomy for Trigger Poi...
Read More
Treating Trigger Points for Back Pain - Multifidi
Treating Trigger Points for Back Pain - Multifidi
  Treating Trigger Points in Multifidi - Dr. Jonathan Kuttner M.D.   These trigger points can be troublesome to loca...
Read More
The Deltoids
The Deltoids
 Treating Trigger Points in the Deltoid Muscles   Deltoid pain is most often mistaken for bursitis or rotator c...
Read More
Peripheral neuropathies of the upper extremities in sport - A soft tissue perspective
Peripheral neuropathies of the upper extremities in sport - A soft tissue perspective
Stuart Hinds demonstrates some first stage assessment tools for identifying peripheral nerve entrapments of the upper...
Read More

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.

Words from our students



Sold Out