Whiplash Symptoms Still Present Ten Years Later

One of the most common injuries associated with rear-end collisions is whiplash. Symptoms of whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) include headaches, back pain, neck stiffness, shoulder pain, and more. Whiplash is a serious condition that can have long-term effects. Auto injury insurance claims cost over $8 billion a year.

Although much is known about treatment for whiplash immediately following an auto injury --like seeking chiropractic care and following exercises-- little is known about the long-term effects of whiplash injuries. Recently, a study in Japan conducted a ten-year follow-up of people with WAD. The researchers sought to identify whether whiplash sped up spinal degeneration.

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A large number of participants with whiplash-associated disorders and controls without any whiplash injuries were recruited for the study. All of the participants had previously been involved in a whiplash research study 10 years before this one. Patients were given physical exams, answered questions about spine and neck-related problems, and had an MRI done of their cervical spine. Their MRIs were examined for disc protrusions, decreased signal intensities, and foraminal stenosis by neurologists who didn’t know which group the participants were in.

Many of the WAD participants still suffered from symptoms 10 years after their auto injury, although a large number of these patients stated that there had been an improvement in their symptoms. The whiplash injury group reported higher levels of headaches, neck pain, numbness in their arms, and shoulder stiffness.

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The MRIs of the whiplash group showed higher levels of a decrease in signal intensity. Other measures of progressive degeneration of the spine were similar across both groups. Another finding of the study was that women in both study groups had worse cervical spine conditions than the men in both groups. The researchers found that symptoms of whiplash can last for over 10 years. However, whiplash was not found to speed up spinal degeneration.

Whiplash is a serious injury that can have long-term effects. It is important to see a chiropractor like ours at Oregon Medical Centers, in Aloha/ Beaverton  following your auto injury to help treat your whiplash and get rid of the symptoms so that it does not become a long-term problem.


Matsumoto M, Okada E, Ichihara D, Chiba K, Toyama Y, Fujiwara H, Momoshima S, Nishiwaki Y, Hashimoto T, Inoue T, Watanabe M, Takahata T. Prospective ten-year follow-up study comparing patients with whiplash-associated disorders and asymptomatic subjects using magnetic resonance imaging. Spine. 2010. 34:18. pp. 1684-1690.

June 24, 2013