ChiroACCESS Clinical Review

Acute Whiplash Injuries: Diagnosis

This information is provided to you for use in conjunction with your clinical judgment and the specific needs of the patient.

Lead Author(s): 

Dwain M. Daniel, D.C.


How this evidence was rated:

Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy (SORT)

Published on

May 1, 2007

Text Size:     
Diagnosis of acute whiplash injury (AWI) is primarily based on history, examination and radiographic examination when necessary. The first concern to the physician is to determine the extent of injury so as to avoid interventions that may be harmful to the patient. Neurological and ligamentous injury resulting in laxity can result in negative outcomes if not recognized early in the intervention process. The following chart represents the commonly used standard of grading for AWI as developed by the Quebec Task Force (1).

Grade Clinical Presentation

0 No neck complaints, no physical signs
1 Complaints of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness.
No physical signs.
2 Neck complaint and musculoskeletal signs
3 Neck complaint and neurological signs
4 Neck complaint and fracture/dislocation

The author was unable to locate any commonly used clinical tests that are specific for AWI. However there are clinical tests that are often used to evaluate AWI or may be used to quantify the degree of injury. These clinical tests involve standardized scales, proprioception, strength testing, algometry and imaging.

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