Onset of neck pain after a motor vehicle accident: a case-control study

J Rheumatol. 2005 Aug;32(8):1576-83.


Objective: To assess the relative contribution of constitutional (individual) factors, pre-accident health, psychological and workplace psychosocial factors, and accident related (mechanical) factors in the development of neck pain (whiplash) following a motor vehicle accident.

Methods: We conducted a case-control study of drivers (ages 17-70 yrs) who reported a motor vehicle accident to their insurance company. A self-report mailed questionnaire retrospectively collected information on the driver's pre- and post-accident health, details of the accident, and other exposure data. Case/control status (post-accident neck pain) was ascertained using a preshaded manikin.

Results: In total, 26% of drivers reported post-accident neck pain. Women, younger individuals, and those with a history of neck pain were more likely to report neck pain following their accident (OR 1.50, 95% CI 0.98, 2.28; OR 1.62, 95% CI 0.96, 2.74; OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.09, 2.81, respectively). In addition, a number of accident related and psychosocial factors were independently associated with reporting post-accident neck pain: collision from behind (OR 2.55, 95% CI 1.41, 4.62); vehicle stationary at impact (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.12, 3.33); collision severity (upper vs lowest tertile: OR 16.1, 95% CI 8.64, 30.1); not being at fault (OR 2.61, 95% CI 1.49, 4.59); and monotonous work (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.19, 4.04). Based on these 8 factors, the likelihood of having neck pain increased from 7% with < or = 2 risk factors to 62% with > or = 5.

Conclusion: Development of neck pain after a motor vehicle accident is a complex phenomenon resulting from the combined effects of constitutional, mechanical, and psychosocial factors. Using 8 such variables it is possible to identify those at high risk of developing neck pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology*
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Postal Service
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Whiplash Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Whiplash Injuries / etiology