Researchers Address the Opinion That Whiplash is a Chronic Condition
Is whiplash really a debilitating injury, or is it just a way for personal injury lawyers to win more money for their clients? Can a simple, low-speed, rear-end collision cause injury that lasts a lifetime?
A group of researchers recently collaborated to take a good look at the current research about whiplash-associated disorder (WAD). They sought scientific proof that WAD causes muscle degeneration, and their findings were published in the journal Manual Therapy.
About 50% of people with WAD never fully recover and up to 25% have a significant and lasting disability. The authors of the study questioned why some people do recover and others do not. They pointed out that risk factors for WAD developing into disability need to be identified, and they highlighted that such research could possibly help predict outcomes and determine treatment for WAD and other musculoskeletal traumas.
The study was able to utilize and review new measurement technology, and the authors said that a clearer picture is emerging about all the factors involved in patients with persistent WAD.
A recent investigation has found that people with higher pain levels show an accumulation of fatty muscle tissue on MRI scans. Muscle changes like that could be a result of muscle degeneration, especially when considered alongside other physical and psychological factors. The researchers involved said that more research should be conducted to investigate this.
Part of this study included careful analysis of previous findings, but the research team found much of it outdated and inconclusive. They urged for "larger scaled patient-centered quantitative studies on whiplash injuries across cultures." This research wouldn't only benefit medicine, but would also impact the understanding of WAD for the political, legal, and actuarial sectors.
The authors of the study also pointed out that the biological factors and evidence of muscle degeneration should not be the only factors scientists should consider when looking at WAD. The importance of psychosocial factors is becoming clear. Because of the complexities involved, a standardized reporting of whiplash should be established that includes measures of pain and disability, physical and social functioning, post-traumatic stress, and pain processing. Lastly, they recommended that for high-risk patients, specialized imaging should be considered.
Elliot JM, et al. Content not quantity is a better measure of muscle degeneration in whiplash. Manual Therapy 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2013.02.002.