Pain thresholds and tenderness in neck and head following acute whiplash injury: a prospective study

Cephalalgia. 2001 Apr;21(3):189-97. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-2982.2001.00179.x.


OBJECTIVE OF THE INVESTIGATION: In a 6-month prospective study of 141 consecutive acute whiplash-injured participants, and 40 acute, ankle-injured controls, pain and tenderness in the neck/head, and at a distant control site, were measured.

Basic procedures: Muscle palpation and pressure algometry in five head/neck muscle-pairs were performed after 1 week and 1, 3 and 6 months after injury. Algometry was performed at a distant control site.

Main findings: Whiplash-injured patients had lowered pressure-pain-detection thresholds and higher palpation-score initially in the neck/head, but the groups were similar after 6 months, and the control site was not sensitized.

Principal conclusion: Focal, but not generalized, sensitization to musculoskeletal structure is present until 3 months, but not 6 months, after whiplash injury, and probably does not play a major role in the development of late whiplash syndrome. Pressure algometry and palpation are useful clinical tools in the evaluation of neck and jaw pain in acute whiplash injury.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle Injuries / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Headache Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology*