Whiplash immediately brings to mind thoughts of debilitating neck pain after an auto injury. However, we frequently see in our Beaverton patients that chronic whiplash can cause a much wider range of symptoms. A recent study found that patients with chronic whiplash-associated disorders are also more likely to experience widespread pain sensitivity. This results in pain in areas of the body far from the original source of the whiplash pain, including the arms and legs.
The study involved 25 women with whiplash-associated disorders and 10 healthy participants. The researchers used inflated arm and leg cuffs to increase pressure within the muscle tissues. This strategy was used to test the pain tolerance and intensity of pain experienced by study participants while wearing the cuffs.
Patients with whiplash were found to have lower pain thresholds than participants without whiplash. This pain sensitivity was found in both the legs and arms of whiplash victims, far from the initial whiplash injury site of the neck. The researchers concluded that chronic whiplash has the potential to cause widespread hyperalgesia (pain sensitivity). They believe that central sensitization may be the underlying case.
With central sensitization, a trauma (such as an auto injury) prompts a chain reaction in which inflammation and muscle damage send pain signals to the brain. As the brain's pain receptors become over-stimulated, the entire body can become overly sensitized to pain. This causes widespread chronic pain in the extremities, far away from the initial whiplash injury.
Central sensitization can seriously impact a whiplash victim's quality of life and hamper their ability to work. Previous research has found that chiropractic care can help to alleviate the symptoms of chronic whiplash, including pain sensitization issues. If you have neck pain or other symptoms of whiplash, contact our offices in Beaverton and Aloha to find out how chiropractic care can help.
Lemming D, et al. Widespread pain hypersensitivity and facilitated temporal summation of deep tissue pain in whiplash associated disorder: an explorative study of women. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 2012; 44(8): 648-57. doi: 10.2340/16501977-1006.