Trunk sway measures of postural stability during clinical balance tests in patients with chronic whiplash injury symptoms

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2003 Aug 1;28(15):1725-34. doi: 10.1097/01.BRS.0000083170.34304.A3.


Study design: Trunk sway occurring during clinical stance and gait tasks was compared between a group of subjects with a chronic whiplash injury, resulting from an automobile collision, and a normal collective.

Objectives: To examine if population specific trunk sway patterns for stance and gait could be identified for chronic whiplash injury patients.

Summary of background data: Our previous work has established that it is possible to identify specific patterns of stance and gait deficits for vestibular loss (both acute and compensated) patients and those with Parkinson's disease. Our question was whether it was possible to use the same stance and gait tasks to identify patterns of trunk sway differences with respect to those of healthy subjects and individuals with a chronic whiplash injury.

Methods: Twenty-five subjects with history of whiplash injury and 170 healthy age-matched control subjects participated in the study. Trunk sway angular displacements in chronic whiplash patients were assessed for a number of stance and gait tasks similar to those of the Tinetti and Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction and Balance (CTSIB) protocols. We used a lightweight, easy-to-attach, body-worn apparatus to measure trunk angular displacements and velocities in the roll (lateral) and the pitch (forward-backward) planes.

Results: Data analysis revealed several significant differences between the two groups. A pattern could be identified, showing greater trunk sway for stance tasks and for complex gait tasks that required task-specific gaze control such as walking up and down stairs. Trunk sway was less, however, for simple gait tasks that demanded large head movements but no task-specific gaze control, such as walking while rotating the head.

Conclusions: Subjects who have a chronic whiplash injury show a characteristic pattern of trunk sway that is different from that of other patient groups with balance disorders. Balance was most unstable during gait involving task-specific head movements which possibly enhance a pathologic vestibulo-cervical interaction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiopathology
  • Adult
  • Back / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination / methods
  • Postural Balance* / physiology
  • Posture*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensation Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology
  • Thorax / physiopathology
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications
  • Whiplash Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology