Pain neurophysiology education improves cognitions, pain thresholds, and movement performance in people with chronic whiplash: a pilot study

J Rehabil Res Dev. 2011;48(1):43-58. doi: 10.1682/jrrd.2009.12.0206.


Chronic whiplash is a debilitating condition characterized by increased sensitivity to painful stimuli, maladaptive illness beliefs, inappropriate attitudes, and movement dysfunctions. Previous work in people with chronic low back pain and chronic fatigue syndrome indicates that pain neurophysiology education is able to improve illness beliefs and attitudes as well as movement performance. This single-case study (A-B-C design) with six patients with chronic whiplash associated disorders (WAD) was aimed at examining whether education about the neurophysiology of pain is accompanied by changes in symptoms, daily functioning, pain beliefs, and behavior. Periods A and C represented assessment periods, while period B consisted of the intervention (pain neurophysiology education). Results showed a significant decrease in kinesiophobia (Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia), the passive coping strategy of resting (Pain Coping Inventory), self-rated disability (Neck Disability Index), and photophobia (WAD Symptom List). At the same time, significantly increased pain pressure thresholds and improved pain-free movement performance (visual analog scale on Neck Extension Test and Brachial Plexus Provocation Test) were established. Although the current results need to be verified in a randomized, controlled trial, they suggest that education about the physiology of pain is able to increase pain thresholds and improve pain behavior and pain-free movement performance in patients with chronic WAD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications
  • Whiplash Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Young Adult