Study design: A comparative study of cervical range of motion in asymptomatic persons and those with whiplash.
Objectives: To compare the primary and conjunct ranges of motion of the cervical spine in asymptomatic persons and those with persistent whiplash-associated disorders, and to investigate the ability of these measures of range of motion to discriminate between the groups.
Summary of background: Evidence that range of motion is an effective indicator of physical impairment in the cervical spine is not conclusive. Few studies have evaluated the ability to discriminate between asymptomatic persons and those with whiplash on the basis of range of motion or compared three-dimensional in vivo measures of range of motion in asymptomatic persons and those with whiplash-associated disorders.
Methods: The study participants were 89 asymptomatic volunteers (41 men, 48 women; mean age 39.2 years) and 114 patients with persistent whiplash-associated disorders (22 men, 93 women; mean age 37.2 years) referred to a whiplash research unit for assessment of their cervical region. Range of cervical motion was measured in three dimensions with a computerized, electromagnetic, motion-tracking device. The movements assessed were flexion, extension, left and right lateral flexion, and left and right rotation.
Results: Range of motion was reduced in all primary movements in patients with persistent whiplash-associated disorder. Sagittal plane movements were proportionally the most affected. On the basis of primary and conjunct range of motion, age, and gender, 90.3% of study participants could be correctly categorized as asymptomatic or as having whiplash (sensitivity 86.2%, specificity 95.3%).
Conclusions: Range of motion was capable of discriminating between asymptomatic persons and those with persistent whiplash-associated disorders.