Common Types of Back Pain and What They Really Mean: Part Three – Whiplash Associated Disorder

The third in a series of blogs on back pain written by physiotherapist, Mark Stubbins of The Physio Lounge, Manchester

Mark_physio_lounge_150px.jpg            Physio_lounge_logo_250.jpg


We’ve looked at mechanical back pain, we’ve talked about nerve root pain and now we’re going to take a look at Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD). I know what you’re thinking... whiplash is when you injure your neck. Well that’s true but, you can also have a WAD in relation to the lower part of your back.

A whiplash injury occurs with some degree of trauma that causes excessive, uncontrolled jolting type movement in the joints of your lumbar spine causing damage to the soft tissue structures in your back. Usually this happens during a motor vehicle shunt, although it could be as a result of a fall or a collision like a rugby tackle. 



 Source: Wikipedia


When the soft tissue in your back is disrupted it will cause pain and inflammation. This leads to muscle spasm causing reduced movement and function. Occasionally if the nerve tissue has been disrupted or impinged you may experience numbness, pins and needles and pain into the legs.

Should you notice any of the following symptoms in conjunction with your injury you should visit A&E immediately:

  • Inability to pass urine
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain into both legs
  • Weakness into the legs
  • Uncoordinated walking pattern
  • Numbness in the saddle area


Depending on what structures have been affected and what symptoms you are experiencing, treatment may vary from person to person. It is always advisable to keep moving as much as you can where back pain is concerned. In our previous blog we discussed some general mobility exercises that are useful to begin after 24 hours in order to maintain and improve mobility after a whiplash injury. Heat is useful to reduce discomfort around the back and may give some temporary pain relief.

When attending a physiotherapy clinic you can expect to be presented with a range of treatment options including acupuncture, manual therapy, soft tissue work, electrotherapy and exercise therapy. The most important thing is to begin a graded rehab program focus on improving mobility and improving the strength and control around the affected areas.


Whatever type of back pain you have and whatever symptoms you may suffer, try to KEEP MOVING! The worst possible thing to do would be to take to your bed and rest. In fact research has demonstrated that this can in fact delay your recovery. If you are concerned about your symptoms or they do not resolve as you might expect then visit a physiotherapist or GP who can advise on the best course of action to take.


Read more about Mark and his physiotherapy practice here:

Tags: None