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.