Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

My friend and I have a bet riding on this question. Which is worse: neck pain from whiplash or arthritic bone spurs? She has the whiplash and I have the bone spurs. We're both 63 years old.

Answer:

A recent study by physical therapists showed that using total cervical (neck) spine motions is a good way to measure change as a result of treatment. The same range of motion measurements can probably answer your question of who's worse.

The therapists compared two groups of patients in the same age range (19 to 55 years). One group had whiplash injuries at least six months ago. The second group had degenerative changes as a result of disc problems or arthritic bone spurs.

Findings showed patients in both groups had a 25 to 35 per cent decrease in total neck range of motion. This represents a moderate-to-severe degree of neck disability.

A closer look at the data did show that the group with degenerative changes had a slightly higher severity of disability. Whiplash patients tend to have greater loss of motion in extension whereas patients with degenerative changes had a more global loss of motion in all directions.

Pain more than structure or anatomy appeared to be the real factor limiting function in these two groups. So you ladies can compare pain levels, function, and range of motion and get a pretty good idea of which condition is more limiting. Zeevi Dvir, PhD, et al. Cervical Motion in Patients with Chronic Disorders of the Cervical Spine: A Reproducibility Study. In Spine. June 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 13. Pp. E394-E399.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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