Content » Vol 36, Issue 5

Acute and chronic whiplash disorders - a review

Ylva Sterner A1 and Björn Gerdle A2 A3
A1 Department of Anaesthesia, Pain Clinic, Karolinska Institutet Danderyd Hospital
A2 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine Faculty of Health Sciences Linköping
A3 Pain and Rehabilitation Centre University Hospital Linköping Sweden

DOI: 10.1080/16501970410030742


Objective: This review examines acute and chronic whiplash-associated disorders to facilitate assessment, treatment and rehabilitation for further research and evidence-based practises. Design: A review of the literature. Results and conclusion: Whiplash-associated disorders account for a large proportion of the overall impairment and disability caused by traffic injuries. Rarely can a definite injury be determined in the acute (or chronic) phase. Crash-related factors have been identified, and several trauma mechanisms possibly causing different injuries have been described. Most whiplash trauma will not cause injury, and the majority of patients (92-95%) will return to work. Litigation is not a major factor. Cognitive impairments are not the same as brain injury. Variables such as pain intensity, restricted motion, neurological symptoms and signs, together with central nervous system symptoms can be used to predict a situation with risk of remaining complaints. Influences of other factors - the same as for other chronic pain conditions - also exist. Persistent/chronic pain is not merely acute pain that persists over time; changes occur at different levels of the pain transmission system. Chronic whiplash-associated disorders are associated with problems concerning social functioning, daily anxieties and satisfaction with different aspects of life. Adequate information, advice and pain medication together with active interventions might be more effective in the acute stage. Early multidisciplinary rehabilitation focusing on cognitive-behavioural changes might be of value. To develop specific treatment and rehabilitation, it is important to identify homogenous subgroups.

Lay Abstract


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