Whiplash Patients Exhibit Distinct Pain Pattern

The goal of this study was to compare whiplash patients to patients with fibromyalgia and non-traumatic neck pain, and to determine if there was a particular pain pattern unique to whiplash patients. Of the subjects, 47 had whiplash, 21 had fibromyalgia, 17 had non-traumatic pain, and 15 patients suffered from depression.

The authors found:

  • The most severe muscular dysfunction was in the upper neck.
  • 85% of whiplash patients had trigger point pain the semispinalis capitis muscles of the neck.

The authors write:

"Our findings support the hypothesis that the most severe musculoskeletal pathology after whiplash is found in the upper part of the cervical spine. They are consistent with the biomechanics of the injury and the findings by Barnsley and Lord and colleagues of a painful C1-2 facet joint dysfunction. In contrast, trigger points in the other patient groups and in healthy people were predominantly found in the lower cervical spine and the shoulder girdle."

The pattern of tension in the neck is especially important, because of the important nerves that travel through the neck:

"In some patients, the myofascial tension of the scalene muscles causes a functional thoracic outlet syndrome that may in some cases explain the complaint of brachialgia."

  1. Ettlin T, Schuster C, Stoffel R, et al. A distinct pattern of myofascial findings in patients with whiplash injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2008;89:1290-1293.