Predicting Prognosis After Whiplash

Whiplash is caused by a rapid acceleration-deceleration motion that puts significant strain on the cervical region, or neck. This sudden trauma can damage the joints, ligaments, and nerves in the cervical spine. It's not surprising then that many patients we see in our Salem clinic suffer from cervical motor dysfunction immediately after auto injury. However, few studies have examined whether this initial cervical motor dysfunctions influences patient prognosis, or their trajectory of recovery after auto injury.

In a recent literature review, researchers scoured the existing scientific literature on whiplash, to see whether cervical motor dysfunction affected long-term prognosis.

The studies showed that whiplash patients had reduced cervical mobility, altered muscle activity, and disturbed kinesthesia (problems perceiving the position and movement of the body). In one study, patients with initial reduced cervical range of motion were 4.6 times more likely to develop chronic disability. However, other studies produced conflicting results, leading researchers to question the predictive value of initial cervical motor dysfunction.

Although reduced cervical mobility is indeed an important factor in acute whiplash, the researchers concluded that it may not explain long-term symptoms. Earlier studies have pointed to other factors that influence whiplash prognosis, including:

  • Age
  • Intensity of neck pain
  • Presence of back pain
  • High medication use
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of movement
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Expectations and patient attitudes
  • Days before seeking medical attention


Seeking early treatment can improve your chances of recovery after whiplash. Studies show chiropractic care, like what we offer our Salem patients, can significantly ease symptoms in patients with whiplash. Dr. Geary Michels is experienced in providing effective relief of auto injuries for patients in Salem, OR. Call Michels Spinal Rehab Center for an appointment today.


Bohman T, et al. Prognosis of patients with whiplash-associated disorders consulting physiotherapy: development of a predictive model for recovery. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012; 13(1):264.



Bostick GP, et al. Predictive capacity of pain beliefs and catastrophizing in Whiplash Associated Disorder.Injury 2012: doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2012.10.007.



Casey PP, et al. Identifying predictors of early non-recovery in a compensation setting: The Whiplash Outcome Study. Injury 2011; 42 (1): 25-32.



Makalani Mytveit S, Wilhelmsen I, et al. What characterizes individuals developing chronic whiplash?: The Nord-Trondelag Health Study (HUNT). Journal of Psychosomatic Research; available online 13 March 2013.


  1. dr Robertson

    Dr. Julia Robertson, DC is a Chiropractic Physician who worked with Michels Spinal Rehab and Associates and who is now the proud owner of Robertson Spinal Rehab & Associates. She provides personal one on one services specializing in spinal manipulation, physiotherapy, nutritional counseling in addition to developing personal rehab programs.