Neck Pain Before and After Whiplash Injury

Chronic pain is a significant risk for patients with whiplash injury. Studies have found that half of all patients report incomplete recovery, and many suffer from ongoing symptoms for a decade after the auto accident. This has driven researchers to investigate what leads to chronic symptoms in patients with whiplash after auto injury.

Some research has found that patients with whiplash are more likely to develop chronic symptoms if they already had a history of neck pain prior to the car accident. This may lead some litigators to question whether a patient's symptoms have arisen from prior conditions rather than the auto injury itself.

To explore this issue, researchers from Sweden recently examined the health records of 1,443 patients with whiplash and 5,772 healthy controls. They analyzed rates of healthcare utilization for three years before the whiplash injury, and three years after, to see how often patients consulted with healthcare providers. Participants were divided into low, frequent, and high rates of healthcare consultation.

Indeed, patients with higher rates of healthcare consultation before the injury were more likely to continue their high rates of consultation after the injury, and had more sick leave. However, all whiplash patients were more likely to have higher healthcare use, regardless of how often they visited a doctor prior to the injury. Additionally, 16% of patients with low to moderate healthcare use switched over to higher healthcare consultation. This suggests that while prior conditions do affect rates of healthcare utilization and chronicity, ultimately the injury itself is responsible for healthcare consultation.

Researchers also suggested that care for psychological distress may contribute significantly to higher rates of healthcare use in patients with whiplash. We've previously written about how post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are more common in whiplash patients, and may contribute to chronic problems.

Often patients in our Aloha clinic wonder what they can do to prevent chronic symptoms. After years of treating patients with whiplash and auto injuries in Aloha and Beaverton, we've found that staying physically active, keeping a positive outlook, seeking treatment for anxiety and PTSD, and getting regular chiropractic and physical therapy can all decrease your risk. For more ideas on how to combat chronic pain after auto injury, schedule an appointment with our Beaverton chiropractors today.

Reference

Jöud A, et al. Healthcare consultation and sick leave before and after neck injury: a cohort study with matched population-based references. BMJ Open. 2013 Aug 30;3(8):e003172. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003172.

October 14, 2013
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Sunita Bhasin