Question:About two weeks ago I had a car accident and suffered a whiplash injury. I'm still having daily headaches and neck pain that goes down my left arm. Is there any way to tell if I'll come out of this okay?
Acute whiplash injury is always a cause of concern for patients. Predicting who will develop long-term, chronic symptoms isn't easy. Recent research from the Whiplash Research Unit at the University of Queensland in Australia may shed some light on this topic.
They followed a group of whiplash patients for two to three years. Subjects were tested immediately after injury, one month later, and six months after the accident. Results were compared to similar measures taken two to three years later.
They found a cluster of physical and psychologic factors that may predict long-term outcomes. It seems that older age combined with cold insensitivity and psychologic distress are important predictors. Most of the patients who had these symptoms still had moderate-to-severe neck and/or arm pain six months up to three years later.
But this doesn't mean that if you have neck and arm pain now that you won't have a complete recovery. Early treatment and pain management may make a difference. Talk to your doctor about what steps you can take now. If you still have symptoms at the end of one month, consider adding physical therapy and counseling. There's some evidence that a multidisciplinary approach can make a difference.Michele Sterling, et al. Physical and Psychological Factors Maintain Long-Term Predictive Capacity Post-whiplash Injury. In Pain. May 2006. Vol. 122. No. 1-2. Pp. 102-108.
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