Whiplash Rehabilitation & Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA)

Edmonton Whiplash Rehabilitation Specialists

Whiplash Injury?

Car accident neck and/or back pain or dysfunction?

REP Physio in Edmonton is here to help.

Our experienced therapists combine the latest research and interventions with your unique needs and goals to tailor a whiplash recovery protocol specific to YOU.

In Alberta, regardless of who is at fault for the accident, or if you were the driver or passenger, you are entitled to care for the injuries you sustained.

  • What is whiplash, exactly? 

Whiplash is an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck. This causes excessive pushing and pulling forces on the body’s soft tissues that can result in injury and dysfunction (whiplash injury). This can lead to a variety of clinical manifestations (Whiplash-Associated Disorders, or WAD).

Collectively, whiplash-associated disorders (WADs) refer to soft tissue and/or bone injuries sustained as a result of rapid acceleration and deceleration forces to the neck. Other areas of the body can (and routinely are) affected by a WAD injury.

The severity/type of WAD injury is determined based on the physical findings at the time of assessment. WAD injuries are classified on a four point scale, based on the degree of symptoms, loss of range of motion, and the presence of neurological signs and/or fractures.

In insurance and medical circles, whiplash injuries are categorized as follows:

WAD 0: No complaints of neck pain. No physical signs of dysfunction.
WAD 1: Complaint of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only. No physical sign(s) of injury (e.g. loss of neck range of motion)
WAD 2: Complaint of neck pain AND musculoskeletal signs of dysfunction. Musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of motion and point tenderness. WAD 2 is the most common type of whiplash injury we see at REP Physio in Edmonton.
WAD 3: Complaint of neck pain and neurological sign(s) of dysfunction. Neurological signs include decreased or absent tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits
WAD 4: Neck complaints and/or fracture or dislocation

What Are the Symptoms of a Whiplash Injury?

Symptoms of whiplash injury and dysfunction often include generalized stiffness and soreness at rest or with movement in the head and neck muscles ands ligaments. You can also experience headaches, difficulty sleeping, irritability, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and jaw (TMJ) pain.

In the early stages of whiplash recovery these symptoms can be quite severe.

Fortunately, the good news is that in many cases, recovery from whiplash injury and dysfunction can occur quickly. However, some people can experience persistent symptoms. Moreover, surgery is rarely required to fix soft tissue injury from whiplash.

In Edmonton, and the rest of Alberta, regardless of who is at fault for the accident, or if you were the driver or passenger, you are entitled to care for the injuries you sustained. The majority of these costs are covered by the motor vehicle insurance company of the registered owner of the vehicle you were in at the time of accident.

Were you injured in a motor vehicle accident in Edmonton?

Call us today at either of our locations.

The REP Physio Whiplash Injury Recovery Protocol

At REP Physio we tailor your recovery based on your injury and your unique needs via using industry standard and evidence based techniques. REP Physio’s 7 step whiplash recovery protocol is as follows:

1. Accurately assess and diagnose

Using best practice guidelines, our physiotherapists begin by getting a detailed history of your accident and subsequent symptoms.  We then take a focused physical exam, including applying the Canadian C-Spine Rule to determine whether X-ray of the neck is required.  For the overwhelming majority of whiplash injuries, we do not recommend specialized imaging techniques such as MRI and CT scans.

2. Measure your baseline and track your progress

Tracking your progress throughout your recovery is important. As they say, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We track your progress using industry recommended tools, including, but not limited to, the Neck Disability Index, Orebro, Impact of Events Scale, Visual Analogue Scales and Whiplash Disability Questionnaire.  These measures help us determine if your recovery may be more prolonged, or would benefit from the help of our other providers, including a psychologist and or injury management consultant. Additionally, if you are new to a whiplash injury as a result of a motor vehicle collision, our therapists and admin staff will guide you through the process of dealing with your care insurance company.

3. Educate you on your recovery

Our physiotherapists will educate you on the nature of your injury and healing timelines.  We will acknowledge that you are hurt and that you have symptoms of a whiplash injury.  We will also strongly encourage you to keep up with  “activity as normal”. Overwhelmingly, the evidence shows that  those with a whiplash injury that maintain normal life activities have better outcomes. In fact, reducing your usual activities for greater than 4-days post accident is NOT recommended in the treatment of whiplash injury and dysfunction. Your therapist at REP Physio in Edmonton will provide you with strategies to stay active while you recover.

4. Provide a collaborative, client-centered, active, exercise-based recovery plan

Best practice guidelines for the recovery of whiplash injury have exercise as the foundation for recovery.  Exercise works. Period.  We have the expertise to provide you with the right exercises for every stage of your recovery. Our physiotherapists will provide you with exercises that help strengthen the muscles of the neck and improve range of motion. We can also provide you with exercises that help address any other areas of dysfunction as a result of your accident. We’ll make sure these exercises are centered around your needs, and work into your busy life. We may also refer you to our highly qualified in-house personal trainers that work alongside our physiotherapists to help maximize your recovery.

  • The use of a soft neck collar, as well as passive approaches to care are generally not recommended to aid in a timely recovery.

Were you injured in a motor vehicle accident in Edmonton?

Call us today at either of our locations.

5. Manual therapy

Our physiotherapists may provide you with manual therapy (hands on techniques) and/or dry needling IMS for the management of your whiplash symptoms.

6. A multi-disciplinary approach

Our physiotherapists may recommend other interventions such as whiplash massage therapy, psychology, and a TMJ specialist among other allied health care providers for the management of your whiplash injury.

In regard to massage therapy, following a whiplash injury, many patients describe having painful trigger points in the affected muscles. They may also report back pain and pain in areas other than just the head, neck and jaw. Using a variety of massage techniques including deep tissue massage and relaxation massage techniques, your massage therapist at REP Physio can help you move and feel better following your whiplash injury. However, massage therapy for whiplash injury should be viewed as an adjunct to the foundation of your recovery program: an active, exercise-based approach.

7. Continually re-evaluate and adjust your care based on your needs and progress

Fortunately, many people that have experienced a whiplash injury recover quickly. For those with a prolonged recovery, REP Physio offers an in-house injury management consultant that can work with you, your physiotherapist and your insurance company to determine an appropriate course of treatment.

Testimonial: ERIN O.

The staff at REP Physio Westbrook is amazing!  Physiotherapist Lindsay Thompson took care of my neck and upper back after I developed whiplash from a motor vehicle accident. Lindsay educated me about what was going on with my body, helped me heal from the injury and encouraged me stay active while being treated. A combination of physiotherapy and massage have me feeling better than ever.

I can’t thank REP Physio enough!

Whiplash Injury FAQ

Whiplash Basics

What are the symptoms of whiplash / WAD?

Whiplash symptoms typically include:

  • neck pain/soreness and or stiffness, headaches, typically at the base of the skull, loss of range of motion in the neck, tenderness to the touch in the neck, shoulders and other areas, difficulty sleeping due to pain, fatigue
  • Fortunately, most car accidents result in soft tissue injuries only. Only a minor amount result in broken bones and/or serious medical complication

When should someone get checked out?

People involved in a whiplash injury should get checked out by a physiotherapist (or primary health care provider) as soon as possible.

How long does recovery usually take?

Typically, recovery from a whiplash injury takes 6-12 weeks (90 days). However some people can expect to be symptomatic beyond this period

Recovery is not linear.  

Symptoms typically fluctuate with people have good and bad days.

It is important for individuals in a whiplash injury to try to resume "activities as normal" as much as possible.  While it might hurt at first, it is unlikely to cause harm.

Motor Vehicle Accident & Whiplash Insurance

What do I do when I get into a car accident?

As per the Alberta Government guidelines following an MVA, the best steps are:

  1. Make sure you and your loved ones are o.k. When in doubt, or if the accident was severe (head on collision, high rate of speed, clear signs of significant trauma), call 911.
  2. If you do not require emergency medical attention, see a Primary Healthcare Practitioner. This would include either a Physiotherapist, Medical Doctor, or Chiropractor as soon as possible for an assessment for your injury. Generally, this is something that should be done within the first few days following the accident. Remember, you do not have to see the provider or clinic recommended by your car insurance company. You are free to choose whichever provider or clinic you would like.
  3. File a collision report with the police.
  4. Complete an AB-1: Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim Form, which can either be sent to your insurance company, or your practitioner can send in your completed copy. At REP Physio we can happily assist you in getting this form sent to your insurance company.
  5. Based on your practitioner’s diagnosis and the reports to the insurance company, you will be notified regarding your recommended treatment plan and subsequent benefits.

What is the process for therapy and rehabilitation?

Every case is unique. Edmonton sees many cases of whiplash and neck injuries from motor vehicle accidents each year, and our expert staff know how to build a custom rehabilitation and recovery program tailor made for you.

At REP Physio, our physical therapists are specialists in assessment and treatment of musculo-skeletal injuries, including those caused during your MVA. We will perform a thorough assessment of your injuries, and walk you through what to expect moving forward. This includes education of your ongoing diagnosis, prognosis, management of symptoms and planning for return to pre-accident level of function. If needed, we will also guide you to the services of other healthcare practitioners if they would be valuable to your recovery such as massage or psychological services. We utilise evidence-based treatment to guide our treatment programs, including therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and/orIMS (dry needling). Ultimately, we will utilise our expertise based on current treatment guidelines, and tailor it to meeting your treatment goals.

What type of benefits am I entitled to after my injury?

In Alberta following a diagnosis from a Primary Healthcare Practitioner, you will be eligible to receive approximately 10-21 treatments depending on the severity of your injury. This is known as the “in protocol” period. During this period, you are entitled to care for a 90 day period from the date of your accident, or until you exhaust your allotted treatments. Treatments can include physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care. There is also the option to access dental care and psychological services if necessary.

If you are diagnosed as “out of protocol” (more serious injuries, WAD 3/WAD 4) your therapist can guide you through the process. In this instance, your car insurance company becomes the secondary payor, while your extended health care insurance company becomes the primary payor. 

What if I’m still symptomatic by the time my “in protocol” treatments are over?

If medically necessary, you are permitted to access treatment for up to two years from the date of your accident. Following your “in protocol” treatment, you will be re-assessed, and your ongoing treatment plan will be recommended by your healthcare practitioner. There are some limits on the amount of massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care that you can access during this period. There are no limits for physiotherapy.

Do I need to go to the clinic my insurance company recommended?

The simple answer is "no" – Alberta’s Auto Insurance Regulations state that you are free to choose your care provider.

In fact, we are proud not to be the preferred provider of any insurance company, to ensure there is never any conflict of interest. We are here for you.

How do I begin setting up appointments to start rehabilitation?

You can easily contact us at either of our Edmonton locations (Westbrook or Summerside) and our clinic staff will work with you to find a day and time that works with your schedule. We understand that you want to address your motor vehicle accident injury quickly, so we provide hours as early as 5:30 am and as late as 8pm, depending on the day.

Ready to discuss your whiplash rehab needs after a motor vehicle accident in Edmonton? 

Fill out our contact form or call us today.

Have questions or you'd like to book an appointment right now? Please call your preferred location and we'd be happy to help!

Westbrook Location

Summerside Location

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Post-COVID rehab is available at REP Physio