Late whiplash syndrome: a clinical science approach to evidence-based diagnosis and management

Pain Pract. 2008 Jan-Feb;8(1):65-87; quiz 88-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-2500.2007.00168.x.


The purpose of this article is to narrow the gap that exists in the clinical application of scientific research and empiric evidence for the evaluation and management of late whiplash. Considering that 14% to 42% of patients are left with chronic symptoms following whiplash injury, it is unlikely that only minor self-limiting injuries result from the typical rear-end impact. As psychosocial issues play a role in the development of persistent whiplash symptoms, discerning the organic conditions from the biopsychosocial factors remains a challenge to clinicians. The term "whiplash" represents the multiple factors associated with the event, injury, and clinical syndrome that are the end-result of a sudden acceleration-deceleration trauma to the head and neck. However, contentions surround the nature of soft-tissue injuries that occur with most motor vehicle accidents and whether these injuries are significant enough to result in chronic pain and limitations. The stark contrast in litigation for whiplash that exists among industrialized nations and less developed countries suggests another factor that could influence one's interpretation of symptoms' chronicity associated with Late Whiplash Syndrome. There are no gold standard tests or imaging techniques that can objectify whiplash-associated disorders. A lack of supporting evidence and disparity in medico-legal issues have created distinct camps in the scientific interpretations and clinical management of late whiplash. It is likely that efforts in research and/or clinical practice will begin to explain the disparity between acute and chronic whiplash syndrome. Recent evidence suggests that Late Whiplash Syndrome should be considered from a different context. The purpose of this article is to expound on several of the significant findings in the literature and offer clinical applications for evaluation and management of Late Whiplash Syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brachial Plexus Neuritis / etiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease Management
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Psychology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / etiology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Stenosis / etiology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Vertigo / etiology
  • Whiplash Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Whiplash Injuries* / prevention & control
  • Whiplash Injuries* / psychology
  • Whiplash Injuries* / therapy