Whiplash and post-traumatic stress disorder

Disabil Rehabil. 1998 Nov;20(11):397-404. doi: 10.3109/09638289809166101.


Purpose: This study examined the comorbidity of whiplash and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following motor vehicle accidents. A treatment strategy in cases with both disorders is proposed.

Method: A review of the literature on psychological consequences of motor vehicle accidents and on risk factors associated with developing chronic whiplash complaints is given. A case report is presented to illustrate the treatment strategy.

Results: Traffic accidents lead to psychological complaints more often than is realized in clinical practice. It is estimated that PTSD occurs in at least 25% of traffic accident victims who sustain physical injuries. This number is probably higher in patients with chronic whiplash complaints. The case report shows that improvement in relation with the post-traumatic stress symptoms can have a beneficial effect on coping with the chronic whiplash complaints.

Conclusions: The psychotherapeutic treatment of patients with chronic whiplash complaints and PTSD should be aimed primarily at coping with the trauma and not at the chronic pain complaints.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications
  • Whiplash Injuries / epidemiology
  • Whiplash Injuries / psychology*