Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

Is there a difference in neck pain between fibromyalgia and whiplash? I've had both problems and can't really tell one from the other. I'm never sure which problem I'm dealing with.

Answer:

Pain, stiffness, and tenderness of the neck are words used to describe symptoms of fibromyalgia and whiplash associated disorder (WAD). And associated signs and symptoms such as dizziness, headache, difficulty swallowing, and blurred vision have been reported with both conditions. Not only that but fatigue, trouble sleeping, reduced energy, and irritability or depression are all linked with fibromyalgia and WAD. So, it's no wonder you're having trouble sorting out what is the underlying problem. And, in fact, the characteristic tender points of fibromyalgia can be accompanied by painful areas called trigger points that we normally see with chronic pain conditions like WAD. There is one way to distinguish between trigger points of WAD and trigger points from fibromyalgia. A physical therapist skilled in trigger point assessment can examine you. Studies show that trigger points linked with WAD occur up high in the cervical spine. In particular, the semispinalis capitis muscle will be affected. Trigger points linked with fibromyalgia are more common in the lower cervical spine. It may not really be necessary to know the difference. The treatment program is the same for trigger points no matter what causes them. Thierry Ettlin, MD, et al. A Distinct Pattern of Myofascial Findings in Patients After Whiplash Injury. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. July 2008. Vol. 89. No. 7. pp. 1290-1293.

*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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