Central sensitization worsens auto injury recovery
Central sensitization could affect whether patients recover from auto injury. Recent research from Canadian researcher Robert Ferrari suggests that patients that exhibit early signs of central sensitization are more likely to develop chronic symptoms.
Ferrari describes the process of central sensitization as a phenomenon in which "some individuals continue to have pain in the absence of a peripheral stimulus." This sends the neural system into overdrive, leading to changes in the chemical, electrophysiological, and pharmacological systems that cause people to experience
"exaggerated perception of painful stimuli (hyperalgesia), a perception of innocuous stimuli as painful (allodynia), and may be involved in the generation of referred pain, and hyperalgesia across multiple spinal segments."
To test the effects of central sensitization on recovery from auto collisions, Ferrari conducted a study involving 69 patients with auto injuries who were initially tested for disability and function. Three months after their injury, the patients were evaluated for elbow extension capabilities using the brachial plexus provocation test (BPPT). (In previous studies, people's scores on the BPPT have been shown to indicate central sensitization). Patients in Ferrari's study also reported their pain levels and were asked to answer the question "Do you feel you have recovered fully from your accident injuries?" The patients who answered "no" or "not sure" had reduced elbow extension on the BPPT, suggesting they had signs of central sensitization.
Ferrari concluded that central sensitization is moderately correlated with self-reported recovery in whiplash patients. This suggests that disrupting the process of sensitization early on could improve patient's recovery from whiplash injury.
Ferrari, Robert. Correlation between self-reported recovery and central sensitization in whiplash patients. Journal of Sports and Health Science 2012; 1(1): 61-64.