Beliefs and expectations for recovery, coping, and depression in whiplash-associated disorders: lessening the transition to chronicity

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011 Dec 1;36(25 Suppl):S250-6. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31823881a4.


Study design: Literature review and discussion.

Objective: To discuss the role played by beliefs, expectations, coping, and depression in the transition to chronicity in whiplash-associated disorders (WAD), and to discuss their clinical and research implications.

Summary of background data: Psychological factors are important in musculoskeletal pain problems. Recently, there has been attention paid to their role in the transition from acute to chronic WAD. However, most of this attention has focused on identifying and addressing the personal and behavioral aspects of psychological factors, and little focus on the social and societal influences shaping these factors in WAD patients.

Methods: A literature review was conducted to describe the evidence regarding the roles of beliefs, expectations, pain coping, and depression in WAD recovery. These psychological constructs and research findings were discussed in the context of efforts to improve beliefs, coping, and psychological well-being in WAD.

Results: There is consistent evidence negative beliefs about WAD are common in the general population and that poor expectations for recovery are associated with poor recovery. Pain coping and depression also appear to predict WAD recovery. The conceptual frameworks (such as social learning theory) for understanding these psychological constructs highlight the roles of interpersonal and societal factors. However, most research and clinical interventions related to these factors focuses on the individual, rather than also addressing the social context.

Conclusion: Beliefs, expectations, coping, and depression all predict WAD recovery. Efforts to address these factors should take a broad-based approach. These psychological constructs should be viewed as being developed and maintained within the broader social context of family, social networks, employment, and societal processes in general. There is need for a research and clinical paradigm, which acknowledges the interrelationships between internal processes and the social context in attempts to optimize recovery and functioning in those with WAD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Chronic Pain / etiology
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Pain / psychology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / psychology*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Social Support
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology
  • Whiplash Injuries / psychology*