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<<< (back)  That is a really long term follow-up period. What the researchers found was a little frightening; less than half of people involved in a motor vehicle accident fully recovered even after three decades. Stated another way this means that one of every two whiplash patients will have problems related to their accident for the rest of their life. It additionally suggests that the current therapies used to treat whiplash patients usually fail to provide relief.

This study supports what I commonly have seen in my own practice treating whiplash patients. Namely that many of them have lifelong problems that persist decades after their case was settled. They weren't exaggerating their injuries to get a bigger settlement, their injuries were not like most others that heal and resolve over time. Thus it seems that there is something different about whiplash injuries that make them resistant to most types of current care.

Researchers publishing in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine may have an explanation for why whiplash victims are at such a high risk for lifelong pain. They suggest that it is common for whiplash victims to sustain brain, spinal cord and nerve injures leading to hypersensitivity of the pain pathways.

This means that the pain and injury are related to damage in the nervous system not necessarily the bones, joints and muscles.

After a motor vehicle accident, a patient may have localized injury to the neck, but damage to the central nervous system magnifies and prolongs the pain from the injured muscle.

In fact, we know the delicate nerve fibers called axons are much more susceptible to stretching, twisting and compression than are muscles and joints. We also know that when axons are injured they can produce nerve pain that can persist long after the initial injury to the muscle has healed. Pain from damaged nerve fibers is called neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain can cause changes in the brain which can cause the pain to spread, making parts of the body that were not injured in the original accident to feel hypersensitive, a condition pain researchers call alodynia.

Furthermore, these injuries to the tiny nerve fibers often can't be visualized with routine diagnostic tests, so it is not surprising that current treatment helps less than 50% of whiplash patients fully recover. This is why some doctors accuse whiplash patients of "not really wanting to get better" and patients so often feel more pain after standard treatment rather than relief of their symptoms. The treatment for neuropathic pain is entirely different from the treatments that help muscle and joint pain   (cont. >>>)

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