Background: The prevailing classification of whiplash associated disorder (WAD) focuses solely on neck injuries, thus implying that injuries to other spinal regions are relatively inconsequential. In fact, some whiplash studies exclude patients with injuries to lower spine. We examined whiplash pain locations of injured motorists and their statistical correlates.
Method: De-identified archival data of 158 injured motorists (57 men and 101 women; mean age 39.4 years, SD=12.5) were reviewed statistically. Their motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) occurred 7 to 194 weeks previously (mean=50.7 weeks, SD=38.5), but all still experienced active whiplash symptoms requiring therapy.
Results: The most frequently reported locations of whiplash pain were the head (89.9%), neck (88.6%), shoulders (80.4%), and lower back (77.8%). WAD studies that exclude patients with lower back pain might exclude about 82.9% of injured motorists: the remaining 17.1% of patients with whiplash injury only to the neck are presumably those less adversely affected by the MVA than patients with pain in multiple locations. No correlations of high or moderate magnitude were detected among the various pain locations. Furthermore, no high or moderate correlations were observed between clinical variables (including 2 neuropsychological symptoms scales) and reports of headache or pain in the neck or in lower back.
Discussion and Conclusions: The prevailing WAD classification system needs to be renamed as specific to neck injury only: WAD-C. Parallel WAD classification systems need to be introduced separately for the lumbosacral spine (as WAD-LS) as well as the thoracic spine (as WAD-T) to improve diagnostic descriptive precision of clinical WAD assessments and of their research applications.
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